When People Get Confused, Get The Nouns!

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on September 17, 2012

Who.  What.  Where. When.  These are the Ws of listening, and they’re often more important that people recognize.  Did you know that when people are confused, there’s a good chance that it’s because they are missing a few W’s?   Or that,  if you ask people ‘how’ questions without occasionally referencing the what, who, where and when, people tend to get so confused that they go into a trance state?   Well, it’s true.  And it happens to you!

Don’t misunderstand.  Confusion plays a powerful role in an expanding life.  Because, really, confusion is just a gateway to new insights and understanding.  But only if you go through the gate of confusion, instead of standing outside staring at it.


The missing “W” refers to people (who), places (where), things (what), and time (when.) When people express a limiting idea, like “nobody cares” you can ask, “Who doesn’t care specifically?” or “Nobody cares about what?” or “Where don’t they care?” or even “When don’t they care?” If someone tells you that, “I lost my way,” you can ask “Where did you lose it specifically?” or “What way did you lose?” or “When did you lose your way?” If someone says, “I don’t have enough,” you can ask “What don’t you have enough of specifically?” If someone says, “I don’t have time,” you can ask “When don’t you have time specifically?” Or “Time for what, specifically?” It is usually a good idea to find out the nouns of who, what, where and when, before gathering other information. A misunderstanding of something so basic can send you down a detour from which it is difficult to return.

This post’s take away?  Ask for nouns before verbs.

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