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  • Writer's picturerahulmd

WHY You Should Avoid Asking WHY

Updated: May 3, 2023

For a long time now, I had felt that asking Why in user interviews was putting the user on the defensive. I didnt know why this was happening, but I could sense it.

So I used to go to great lengths to rephrase my WHY questions as WHAT questions.

A few weeks back I came across this brilliant video on LinkedIn, which explained Why "Why" has this effect on people 😃

While growing up we were always asked "Why" whenever we did something wrong. For example:

  • Why were you late for class?

  • Why did you get such low marks?

  • Why did you get into a fight?

Nobody ever asked "Why" when we did something good:

  • Why did you get here early?

  • Why did you get such good marks?

  • Why did you make friends with everyone?

Because of this:

In our subconscious we associate WHY with going on the defensive!

So, what do you do?

You convert the "Why" question can be rephrased to a "What" question.

For example, instead of asking:

"Why don't you use our product?"

You ask:

"What can we improve in the product to make you use it more?"

Initially this rephrasing will take some effort. But if you make a conscious effort, over time you can reduce/ avoid the Why question in your conversations with users.

Bonus tip: Whenever you catch yourself asking a Why question in a conversation, make a mental note. After the conversation ask yourself how you could have asked that as a What question.

We will be looking at more tips for user interviews over the next few weeks.


If you'd like to chat about user research and user interviews, give me a shout and ...

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