When I took life coach training from The Coaches Training Institute, one of the basics I learned to really help a client was the fundamental of asking “Why?” (Along with “what”). “What do you want and Why”? And then asking “why” again and again until the process brings clarity rather than my just dishing out “expert” advice. Of course there’s much more expertise, or artistry if you will than that, but the asking/listening process is key.
I thought of that because lately I’ve been drawn to this funny Jimmy Fallon commercial (never have caught his talk show) which he does for a credit card company (a company I’M NOT ENDORSING, repeat, NOT!!). There’s this cute little toddler giving him a hard time with that “NO” stage children go through and finally he’s gotten her to say “Yes”! It’s celebration time until he realizes she’s now progressed past the No’s to that other exasperating stage, the “WHYZZ” 😦
It got me thinking, why is it so frustrating for parents (says she who’s never raised a kid) to “engage” in the Q & A with their little bunches of joy? Get into the game of “Why, Why, Why?” Particularly since research suggests it’s a very important stage, their first attempts with limited verbal skills to understand their world and “connect.”
Curiosity unleashed! Moving past the negative I would say, of “I don’t like and I don’t want and you can’t make me!” to “What’s it all about?
It made me wonder if perhaps most of us move past that “Why” phase and revert back to “No, I don’t like you, don’t want to, and I don’t want that either.” We graduate from the newness and wonder of it all, then mandatory schooling to “Now I know everything; and You can’t tell me anything!” No more curiosity as well as no more having to listen to what authorities have to say.
It occurred to me however that I may never have moved past the “Why” stage! That perhaps my vagabond life beginning with an Air Force-brat childhood, finding myself ensconced again and again with people totally unlike me was an extension of that three-year-old phase? Or perhaps I missed it and am stuck at age three? Can’t recall, but I’ve loved these chances to keep learning and asking “Why?” I’ve often said the more different, the better.
“Why do you believe that? Why do you feel that way, or eat that, or wear that? Or even, why don’t you like that? Or them?
I wondered if this could possibly answer my continuing consternation over the years at the widespread, shall I say, narrow perspective of so many folk I’ve met just about everywhere. Most people it seems to me don’t want to understand, or even hang out with anyone who isn’t just like them, unless it’s on a movie screen or in a book. Little longing or even curiosity to really get to know, get up close and personal! And too often, there’s just plain fear. Fear of the “unknown.”
Maybe babies come with lessons to teach us as much, or more than we have to teach them? The site I referenced above discusses the development process going on between parent and child in addressing the “Why”. Not unlike the coaching model. Has the need for that process disappeared because we’re able to stand on our own two feet? As in coaching, there’s a process involved in achieving clarity, coming to understand. Is it possible life might be more of a continuing exploratory phenomenon than a mold-it and shape-it one? Shaping it with what we think we already know? The public discourse is so full of questions about events after the fact, especially after a travesty. “How could this have happened? Why did he leave me? Is it possible there’d be less of that if we engaged each other better beforehand, if we simply “wanted to know” more than we think we already know?
What if we adults didn’t find baby talk so much a nuisance as an opportunity, not just to teach, but to continue learning? To stay comfortable with engagement?
“So little one come to live with me, who are you?
What makes you tick?
What’s your agenda kid?
How can I help you get there”?
As some scientists now suggest babies come with a lot more “knowledge” and a lot less need for our personal programming than we think. Maybe they’re a lot less like play-doh for us to shape and mold into our personal protégés and more like other living things, acorns and seedlings for example, or baby animals who require just a bit of nurturing to grow into their own. We don’t have to teach a giraffe how to be a giraffe! Humans are indeed more complex than giraffes so I would think we’d at least be as curious about each other as of our new gadgets, our smart phones and lawn mowers? I would think we’d be chaffing at the bit to understand someone “just like me”, but different!
What if we were more curious to understand the opposite sex, or our co-workers and loved ones, our neighbors and strangers and not just dis them; understand before rather than after our daughters marry losers, our husbands run off with our best friend, the accountants abscond with the business profits, or before our loved ones end up on drugs, or in jail, and definitely before, failure to “understand” throws us into combat with countries “unknown”.
The Whyzz don’t have to remain in the after, they can be ongoing present.
I’ve missed a few things from not having stayed in the same place and neighborhood, or close to the same people all my life. But I’m far more comfortable feeling that I understand why people do some of the things they do, and enjoying the sense that I can talk with almost anyone over a pizza, a bowl of gumbo, a croissant, or some baklava, and enjoy the discovery of what makes them tick! As a song I posted before says, I like to “Reach Out, Touch a Hand”!