Is the question “why” a wrong question? Why?

Is the question “why” a wrong question? Why?

By Jean-Luc Pening

The experience taught me not to like questions beginning with “why”, at a point that I learned to avoid them. Since then, I feel better, definitely better. Why? There are too many wrong “why”.

The elusive, stopping and destructive “why”

In my opinion, a wrong “why?” is the one that tries to explain a problem looking for an external origin. This is the “why” I was talking about in a conference and got me so much positive feedback from people that understood its pointlessness.

The day I got rid of the question “why did they shoot me?” I could move forward and think about the future. Why did I get there, at the wrong place or why was I in the trajectory of this bullet? There is no answer to that question, as to know why such person is dead or why chance and fatality exist.

If I was stuck in that question, I would be still going around in circles, looking for causes, culprits, looking at an unchanging past and becoming caught up in my own regrets.

In that case, the question why doesn’t have any answer. It creates a problem where there is no problem. A problem being, by definition, something that brings solutions. My present blindness is a fact, not a problem anymore. I have to accept it even though it’s hard and stop needlessly wondering.

It’s the same story for people that, for instance, wonder why they went to be drug addicts, or alcoholics… While I didn’t find any answer to my questions, those people have found ten, twenty or more answers to theirs. Because of my father, because of the society, because of my childhood, because…

These “why?” don’t bring answers but pretexts, reasons to wallow in self-pity or to cause compassion. Just negative, nothing constructive, just something to justify a condition.

Those persons will take action and will find relief the day they will stop, like me, wondering “why?” They will accept their actual condition and will start asking themselves: “Ok, I am handicapped, that person is dead, or I have a problem with drink, then what shall I do with this, where shall I go?”

The justifying why


There are other wrong “why”… Those that force to justify or to explain.

Day after day, I am increasingly offended by the fact that, when I ask for a favor, many people respond with “Why are you asking that? Or Why are you asking that to me?…” I took a great delight in answering “if I ask that favor/question to you, it’s because I would like to have an answer…” or “Because I’m asking nicely…”. Having to justify each time we do or not something is really heavy. I want to say: “Trust me! Stop verifying systematically if my questions are justified or not!” Those “why” demonstrate, in my opinion, a total lack of confidence.

On the other side, I stopped wondering why such person didn’t answer my question, trusting her. There is nothing as destructive as the reflection “She/he could have…” If someone didn’t do exactly what you asked for, it must be for good reasons, her/his own reasons. The perpetual “why” is the refusal of the other one as she/he is, with her/his own motivations. Why is she/he like that? Why does she/he ask me that? Why not?… I think those “why” also show an expectation. And being in a constant expectation represents a stuck point. What a freedom is giving without expecting anything in return!

When someone didn’t address my expectations, instead of wondering why, I try to ask myself: “what did I do that brought her/him not to understand what I was expecting?” or “since that person cannot help me, whom may I ask to?” Those questions on which I have a possible impact.

The “why” that judges, the no-why that coaches

How do you feel if someone asks you: “why did you do that?” Does it sound familiar? Like the voice of an accusing father or mother?

Those questions bring the need to prove, mostly when a parent or a superior asks them. They imply a judgment or an accusation; therefore it can make you uncomfortable.

That’s the reason why student coaches learn not to ask the question “why?” With a “why”, the customer may feel judged, weighed up. It introduces a hierarchy. So it breaks all confidence and all the possibilities to progress a coaching between equals.

The professional coach will rather replace those intrusive questions with “what was your goal when you did that?” or “what appealed to you?”. Questions that refer to positive notions of goals, motivations…

The good “why?”

Fortunately, it remains all the amazing “whys”: those used by curious scientists like Newton who advanced the science wondering why that apple fell out, those used by all of us when we look for our deep motivations, those of which answers make us question and all the magical “whys” asked by a child who’s discovering the world… Those learning whys that we must encourage and develop to avoid the idiotic “I know, I know everything…”.

All this for what? 

What do I want to share with you? : Be careful with the “whys” that judge, that break confidence or place in a waiting position and the other “whys” that prevent to look forward, that block, prevent to see ahead and send on routes without issues…

Try the non-why! Free yourself! Remove this court dress, the costume of a beggar or the suit of this needless hunter. Live without and you will feel lighter. Keep only the “why?” your childhood that seek to understand things as they are and which open to the world.

Only keep the “whys” of your childhood that try to figure things out and that open to the world!


Jean-Luc Pening

© Copyright February 2015  Tandemcoach