Passing through the check out at a department store recently, I was asked the inevitable “Did you find everything you were looking for today?”
Before answering, I gazed at the cashier wondering what she would do if I responded contrary to what she was expecting. Driving home, I contemplated how many questions are asked simply for the sake of garnering some type of answer? Furthermore, how many questions are we asking (or are asked of us) that we really do not want the answer to?
In mulling this over, I pondered my own experiences and recognized examples of my involvement in these situations. Additionally, I identified a spectrum-type aspect to these questions…not all are created equal nor do all require us to become emotionally involved.
Having worked in the retail/customer service/call center industry, I had been witness to (and involved in) many mindless conversations where rhetoric was a requirement of the job. For example:
“Do you need any socks to go with this dress your purchasing…three pairs for $6.99?”
“Do you have any other vacation needs I can help you with today sir?”
All fine instances of being totally tuned out and anticipating that all responses were going to include an emphatic “NO!” Perhaps this is why the turnover and burn out rate in this sector is so high. Spending all day on automatic can really limit one’s ability for actual engagement.
In the middle of the spectrum I believe we may find the slightly more emotionally charged questions that are asked (or may be asked of us). Again, this includes the concept of asking questions we do not want the answers to with one difference-instead of asking them as a job requirement, we are asking them because our brain has a morbid curiosity. Here you may find such questions as:
“Do these pants make me look fat?”
“Why would you rather hang out with her than me?”
“How long have you been cheating on me for?”
Scraping the bottom of this category, one may also find the “Don’t you love me anymore?” question that is reserved for only the most desperate of situations.
When considering any concept on a spectrum, we have the end that contains the most intense questions and situations that people can endure. Humor aside, my job as a nurse allows me to be witness to questions that people ask that there are no answers to. It has been my experience that questions asked during these critical times fall into two broad categories-people ask the questions but do not want the answers, or people ask the questions already knowing the answers. With either case, sometimes the struggle is not having any answer. To have someone ask something of you and not be able to provide them anything in return is the most constricting feeling.
In saying all of this, the bottom line that I have reached is that there is actually very little that we do not know the answers to ourselves. Many times I think we confuse our need to acquire information for our need to validate what we already know.