Tag Archives: social contagion

What’s so bad about questions?


My improv instructor makes a buzzing noise whenever we ask a question on stage. BEEHHH! Wrong.

Okay, so these are the types of questions that you don’t want to be asked on stage:

I don’t want to be held accountable for having a good, spontaneous answer to those questions while I’m in front of an audience.  But in life, these conversations are actually interesting, and you have the opportunity to think through your point of view.

You can learn a lot about people from the questions that they ask and the answers that they provide.  I get that by asking questions, you put a burden/responsibility on the other person.  Maybe the other improviser hasn’t yet decided what their mother thinks of their tatoo, or in real life, your little brother hasn’t decided where he’s going to college yet (“So stop asking me, Liz!”).  But in a way, by asking a question, aren’t you giving a gift?  An opportunity for that person to share a little piece of themselves?  If they don’t yet have an answer to the question you asked: you’ve given them a friendly environment in which to hash it out.  Questions let people put their world-view out there to maybe impact someone.  We influence each other more than we are aware – for instance, letting others know that you think voting is important might inspire them to vote as well.

In college, my then-boyfriend wrote a play.  The main character’s girlfriend was loosely based on me (original, I know).  Honestly, he did a pretty good job of characterizing my mannerisms and way of speaking.  So good, in fact, that I became self-conscious when the actress that was playing her complained to my playwright boyfriend: “This character is so annoying!  All she does is ask questions!  Doesn’t she have independent thoughts of her own?”

I do!  But I love learning about other people.  Sometimes I still get self-conscious – when I catch myself in question mode, I think back to that offhanded remark.  I don’t think I should be penalized for my insatiable desire to understand where significant others in my life come from, their stories, their background, their opinions, their characters.  Plus, by asking questions, I’m making statements: “I am interested in X. Tell me what you think of it.” Or, “I am interested in you. Please tell me more about yourself.”

I’m in the questions camp.  Don’t be a dick about it on stage or in life – respect others’ opinions and realities, and don’t make them do all the work (be ready and willing to open up, yourself).  If you utilize questions as another way to build relationships and explore new possibilities, then questions shouldn’t be prohibited.  They’re just another tool you have at your disposal.