The Power of the W’s
You’ve probably heard of the five W’s a million times in class. This little family of questions – “Who, what, where, when, why” and their cousin “how” – are memorized by every student who ever has to put together a presentation. But their true power in everyday conversation is never really explained.
No two people in the world agree on everything. You’re bound to talk to people on a daily basis who think differently than you do. Whether you like it or not, this will be the case for your entire life (unless you want to live alone in a cave in Antarctica!) So you might as well take what you can from these little disagreements.
If someone tells you that aliens were in the neighbourhood last night, you can say, “You’re crazy” and walk away. Or, instead, you can use those W’s. Ask them “What do you mean?” or “Why do you think that?” or “How did aliens get here?” Your neighbour will tell you about all the evidence they collected. You’ll find out that there’s a thought process behind their opinion. People don’t just come up with wild ideas out of nowhere and fixate on them. They take the evidence around them and put together a case, the same way you or I do. Whether or not you agree, you are learning about your neighbour’s view of the world and giving yourself a broader perspective.
Maybe you think peanut butter M&Ms are the best candy ever and your friend disagrees. If you just ask why, you might find out he’s allergic to peanuts – which is a great reason not to like peanut butter M&Ms! Or maybe he won’t remember why he thinks that and he’ll give it a second thought.
So if you’re talking about global warming and someone else tells you it’s a myth, don’t call them an idiot. Ask them, “Why? What’s the point of the myth?” Maybe they’ll have a worthwhile answer or maybe they won’t. But it doesn’t hurt you to ask.
A conversation is not a chance to prove you’re right. It’s a chance to inform yourself. Two people can sit and fight all day over which hockey player is the best or which prime minister is the best person to lead Canada, but arguing gets you nowhere if you don’t listen to what the other person is saying.
So just ask questions. It’s easy and it takes you away from an argument and into the world of discussion. Just because all us humans live together, it doesn’t mean we feel the same things.
Often, after asking these questions, you’ll find that even if you still don’t agree, at least you’ll have a better understanding of the issue as a whole and not just the side you see. Plus, you’ll have more respect for the person you’re talking to, who will be a normal, respectable person you happen to disagree with and not just a lunatic sent here to drive you crazy.
If you really love asking these questions of other people, it might even lead you down an exciting career path! Journalists, writers, editors and reporters all ask these questions on a daily basis. Even people who work in marketing and advertising ask themselves these questions to determine the wants and needs of their target audience.