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How To Use Quirky Questions To Avoid Blaming & Irritation

18 Aug 2016

How To Use Quirky Questions To Avoid Blaming & Irritation

News headline:

“Man arrested after house and cars torched.”

“A 30-year-old Blenheim man has been charged with arson following a suspicious house fire last night. The blaze occurred at the Wither Hills address about 7 pm and gutted the house”.

Quirky Questions cause-effect

Provided the man arrested is, indeed found guilty, the headlines reveal an apparent cause and effect: Man torched house and cars = he is responsible for them all going up in smoke. The charged man is blamed for the fire.

We all know what blaming is

Blaming is often obvious and blatant like in the above example. However, there are more subtle ways where we use language to blame something or someone. And the link between the cause and the effect might be tenuous, to say the least.

Making tenuous connections might mean you’re allowing others to ‘push your buttons’

For instance, in this sentence; “It’s my bosses fault that I have no confidence” there’s some blaming going on, that’s for sure. But the implication is that some behaviour from my boss is giving rise to my loss of confidence. To put this another way, I’m allowing my boss to control my behaviour and feelings as if I’m a puppet on a string.

Of course in reality only I control my behaviour and feelings

But by using these blaming type sentences, I give away my personal power to someone else. In today’s terminology, I’m allowing another person to push my buttons.

We all do this to a certain extent

We have to use language to get a point across, and it’s not always easy to think about every little thing we say. Nor is it simple to accept responsibility for every aspect of our lives. I’m not immune from using a few cause and effect statements myself.

Yesterday I was trying to write this article and a guy down the road was using a chain-saw for most of the day.

I found myself thinking: ‘No wonder I can’t think to write, with that noise.”

Ironic eh?

Inappropriate blaming

By stating or implying that one thing causes another thing we avoid taking responsibility for our thinking, feeling or behaviour. In NLP we call these Cause = Effect statements. In it’s simplest form, a Cause = Effect statement means blaming something or someone for your response when there may not be a direct correlation. You’re distorting reality.

An example,  “His untidiness frustrates me.”

Clearly, this statement isn’t accurate because it means something he’s doing (or not doing) is causing your feelings of frustration.

It might be convenient to blame others rather than ourselves, but it leaves us feeling powerless.

But once you recognise the language patterns you can regain control of your emotions.

The language patterns of cause=effect or blaming

Listen for the structure of the sentence. The structure is: “this causes that.” The word ‘cause’ may or may not be used, but there is, at least, an implied connection. For instance, words like; makes, because, then, when, if…then, as…then, since, so.

Examples:
  • If it weren’t for the current economy I’d be doing fine (if … then)
  • My parents ignore me, that’s why I’m moody. (because)
  • Seeing him looking so happy after what he’s done just makes me mad. (makes)
  • I get nervous when the boss is watching me. (because)
  • My leg is sore – it must be old age (because)
Quirky Questions are the answer!

To regain your power – or help someone regain theirs – you can ask specific questions. There are a some quite quirky questions you can ask that will lead you and others to restore power over emotions or behaviour.

Health warning!

Highlighting how a person is apportioning blame for something that they’re personally responsible for, can be enlightening for them. It can also be extremely challenging and ‘in their face’. Please exercise care and thoughtfulness before using any of the quirky questions that follow.

Don’t blame me if you lose all your friends!

Make sure you have really good rapport, and reflect back what the person said before you question it. By checking that what they said is accurate, you indicate you’ve understood. Ensure the context is appropriate and use the questions with integrity. My suggestion is that you practice them with your own thinking first. Otherwise – don’t blame me if you upset people!

OK we’re done with the warning

Now let’s challenge those cause = effect statements with some quirky questions. The idea is to question how the link between the two parts of the message is being made.

Here are some examples, using the previous statements

Statement: If it weren’t for the current economy I’d be doing fine.
Question: How does the current economy affect how you’re doing?

Statement: My parents ignore me, that’s why I’m moody.
Question: How do your parents ignoring you cause you to (choose to) be moody?

Statement: Seeing him looking so happy after what he’s done just makes me mad.
Question: How does him looking so happy make you (choose to) feel mad?

Statement: I get nervous when the boss is watching me
Question: How does your boss watching you make you (choose to) get nervous?

Statement: My leg is sore – it must be old age.
Question: How does your age cause your leg to be sore?

Questions can restore choice

You can probably see, by looking at the examples, that answering the quirky questions restores a sense of choice, or at least helps the person being questioned consider how they’re making a connection between two things that aren’t necessarily associated.

Sometimes a counter-example is useful

A counter example gives someone a different perspective on how they’re placing blame and can also be a useful challenge – again – use with care!

Let’s recycle the previous examples:

Statement: If it weren’t for the current economy I’d be doing fine.
Counter Example question: Have you ever done badly when the economy was booming?

Statement: My parents ignore me, that’s why I’m moody.
Counter Example question: Have you ever been moody when your parents were being attentive?
Or
Have you ever been happy despite your parents ignoring you?

Statement: Seeing him looking so happy after what he’s done just makes me mad.
Counter Example question: Have you ever felt mad without seeing him looking happy?

Statement: My leg is sore – it must be old age
Counter Example question: Did you ever have a sore leg when you were young?

Remember the purpose

The purpose of asking the questions is to help someone restore power over their thoughts, feelings or behaviour; to put them back in control. Use them to challenge your thinking first and to give you insights into how to restore any power you might have given away.

That way you can leave blaming to situations where there is a direct cause = effect – such as setting fire to a house!

Summary
  • Notice your thinking and whether you’re blaming situations, people or circumstances for your feelings, thoughts or behaviours.
  • Recognise that you’re in control of you.
  • Use the quirky questions to challenge how you’re linking the cause to the effect.
  • Be careful how you use these quirky questions with others!