How to Ask “What Happened to You?”

My children used to talk to me in half sentences….

“What are we doing on Friday night?” … “Can I have some cheese?”  …  

These are certainly full sentences, but to me they were always only half the question. What were they actually asking me each time? What are the second halves to each question. There is a massive difference between the possible second halves of those questions, and these are just a tiny portion of them:

“What are we doing on Friday night?”

  • … because I would love us all to go the movies.
  • … because I would love to have all my friends over for a party.
  • … because it’s going to be cold that night and would love spaghetti.

 “Can I have some cheese?”

  •  … because I want to eat a slice.
  •  … because I want to experiment with it.
  •  … because I want to see if the dog likes it.

In the end I tried to encourage them to ask full questions. At the time I never knew why this was so important to me, but I now know that it helped me to know what their actual needs were, it trained them to communicate more effectively and to clarify their needs. Everyone benefitted from it.

Have you ever noticed that many people communicate like this? Only asking half questions and making half statements? I think that this is completely normal but those of us who have more unusual needs than others get asked a lot of questions and there are so many different ways to answer the “apparent” question, depending on what they actually mean. If I know what the second half of their question was, I would more easily be able to answer them.

“What happened to you?” is something that I get asked almost every day that I am out the house. I don’t blame them at all, but it would be super helpful if their questions came fully loaded and knew what they were actually asking.

The question “What happened to you?” could have any one of these second halves, to name just a few:

  1.  … because I am a nurse and I love to hear about medical things…
  2.  … because I once fell off my bike and hurt my leg and had crutches for a week, so we are like basically twins…
  3.  … because I could do with one of those to hit people with..
  4.  … because you look funny…
  5.  … because I hope you have a cool story so that I can tell my friends that I met a lady who fell off a horse and then a submarine ran over her, ….and they will all think I am the coolest!
  6.  … because I am getting to know you and I’d love to hear about you.

The problem is that most people don’t even consciously know what the second half of their question is… but worse than that, I have absolutely no clues as to how to answer them. The above options would be answered completely differently to each other. If I waste the medical answer on anyone other than the first or last, the other’s eyes glaze over mid sentence and off they walk. Numbers 2 through 5 I am yet to find any answer that they can connect with.

I do have a few clues, some people are so readable and obvious about the fact that any kind of real answer will bore them to tears, or that whatever they are asking they are looking for answers that are about them not me. Yet others show straight off the bat that they really care. But I have about a second to work it out and often I get it badly wrong and get frustrated and hurt.

If you want to make a huge impact on people without them ever really knowing how, maybe ask a few whole sentences and people will be blown away and thankful…



My blog on all things writing my story and my book is here, my blog on all things EDS (my genetic condition) and all things Chronic Champions are here, And all things arty and creative are here. I’m on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest too.


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