When you ask compassionate questions (not interrogate), you prompt others to explain why they are feeling the way they do.

02 Sep


Uncovering other people’s underlying beliefs

When disagreements arise one of the parties may try to manipulate the other person, quite unconsciously of course, into doing what he or she wants. When this happens, it is often because of underlying beliefs the person is not aware of and which he/she has not investigated. You can help uncover these belief patterns and help the other person become aware of these underlying belief patterns by using a technique called negative inquiry. When you use negative inquiry, it means that instead of getting defensive when the other person criticizes you, you reply to their criticism by asking questions.

Here’s an example of how negative inquiry works. You want to spend some time alone this weekend. Your partner criticizes you for wanting to spend time alone this weekend and tries to manipulate you by making you feel guilty for wanting what you want. Using negative inquiry, you can reply to his/her criticism with questions such as:

– I don’t understand why my wanting to spend some time alone makes
you unhappy.

– I don’t understand how something like this can make you unhappy?

– Why does my wanting to spend some time alone this weekend make
you unhappy?

– I hear what you are saying, but why does my wanting to spend time
alone make you unhappy?

When you ask questions like this, you prompt the other person to explain why they are feeling as they do. When he or she answers, you may discover, for example, that your partner feels insecure when this situation arises because he/she equates your wanting to be alone with not loving him or her. This uninvestigated belief may be causing your partner a lot of anguish about something, which is just not true. You do love your partner and you still want to spend some time alone. In your mind, these two things are not connected; but in your partner’s mind they are. As a result, a misunderstanding has arisen. By means of negative inquiry, you can bring this belief to light and hopefully clear up the misunderstanding. You can assure your partner that you really do love him/her and still have some time alone!

Another spin on this scenario could be that your partner thinks that since you are a couple, you ‘should’ spend all your free time together. But who says people who are in love should spend all their free time together? Again, this is another interesting belief that may be causing a lot of anguish in a relationship. Regardless of what your negative inquiry uncovers, bringing uninvestigated beliefs out in the open can be a great help.

Underlying beliefs

We all have underlying or basic beliefs about life like the ones mentioned above that we are usually unaware of. But whether we are aware of these beliefs or not, they influence our behaviour and reactions in all the situations of our life. That’s why it’s always a good idea to try to uncover and investigate these beliefs and see if they are true or not. Because if these beliefs are untrue and are mere fantasies or misunderstandings about the nature of life and reality, we are causing ourselves needless suffering. When we uncover and question these basic beliefs we find we can release ourselves from those that are untrue. Then we experience a new freedom, and peace and harmony in our minds and thus in our lives.

Making other people suffer

When it comes to honest communications, here’s a basic belief that many people are having trouble with. It’s the idea that we can actually make other people suffer or that other people can make us suffer. This belief is really a gem. You are experiencing it if you sometimes have the feeling (without knowing exactly why) that your choices and actions are making other people suffer. Or it may be the other way around and you may feel that someone else’s choices and actions are making you suffer. We find this interesting idea behind so many of the problems that arise in our relationships with our partners, family and friends.

But let us ask ourselves if this is true? Is it true that we have the power to make other people suffer? Or that someone else has the power to make us suffer?

When we understand that we live in a mental universe and that everything we experience in our lives—everything—is a thought, we understand that all our experiences are nothing more (and nothing less) than our interpretation of events. No event or circumstance in itself can affect us one way or the other because we can only experience our thoughts about events and circumstances.

It takes only a little investigation to discover that this is true. Let’s take some examples.

Example 1: Your boyfriend breaks your dinner engagement. You were supposed to go out to dinner with your boyfriend tonight. At four o’clock in the afternoon he calls to tell you his boss wants him to work late and he simply cannot get away so he has to cancel the date. Does his decision make you suffer? That depends on how you react.

How do you react?

– You’re disappointed but understand. And you tell him so.

– You get angry because this isn’t the first time this has happened. You
think he’s a workaholic and that he feels his job is more important than
his relationship with you. You wonder if you want to continue the
relationship. (You suffer.)

– You’re relieved because you also have a lot of work piling up and you
could use the evening to catch up. And you tell him so.

– You’re overjoyed because you’re tired and really want to have an
evening to yourself.

– You’re happy because you want him to do what’s right for him in all
situations and you tell him so.

And so on. Of course there are many more ways you could react. But the point is, how you experience the broken dinner engagement depends completely and entirely on your thoughts – and not on the fact that he had to cancel. Whether you are sad (suffer) or neutral or overjoyed depends entirely on your own agenda. It has absolutely nothing to do with him.

This is why we can say nothing external can affect us.

Let’s take another example.

Example 2: Your mother criticizes you for making poor choices in your life. You make an important life decision like dropping out of school, changing your job, moving away or getting married and your mother criticizes you. She says you’re making a big mistake and you’re going to regret it. She says you’re immature and never listen. She’s upset and unhappy with your decision. Do her comments make you suffer? That depends on how you react.

So how do you react?

– You immediately get defensive and feel that your mother will never understand you and you tell her so. You end up quarreling and slamming down the phone. You feel angry and upset all week. (You suffer.)

– You wonder how come you are so unfortunate to have a mother who never understands you. All your friends’ mothers are so much more understanding and supportive. But you don’t say anything. When the conversation is over, you feel hurt and humiliated at having such a mother. It bothers you all week long. (You suffer).

– You listen to what she’s saying and reply “Mother you might be right and I still feel this is the best course of action for me. But thanks for your concern.” You are really touched by her concern and tell her so but you also feel a bit sad that your mother doesn’t really understand your situation. But you accept that that’s just the way it is.

– You laugh to yourself because you know your mother doesn’t have a clue about you and your life, but you don’t tell her so. You know she’s just a little old lady who’s trying her best to help you and who wants you to have a good life.

And so on. Again there are many more ways you could react to your mother’s remarks. And again we see that your experience of your mother’s advice (whether it makes you suffer or sad or not) depends completely on your thoughts about your mother and her role in your life. Your reaction has nothing to do with your mother, but rather are the result of your beliefs and stories about your mother and your relationship to her. The reality is that your mother is just telling you what she thinks – based on her beliefs about life!

Barbara Berger


Posted by on September 2, 2013 in WISDOM


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “When you ask compassionate questions (not interrogate), you prompt others to explain why they are feeling the way they do.

  1. Pingback: Week 2 – Be |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Mightyman Vukeya

DNS is in my DNA

Chris Brake Show Podcast

LIVE! Every Wednesday @ 8pm Eastern / 7pm Central on


Just another site


Just another site

Lama Surya Das

Lama Surya Das, the most highly trained American lama in the Tibetan tradition.

My Life as an Artist (2)

Smile! You’re at the best site ever


A great site

Joseph Matheny

Multidisciplinary Artist | Liminal Fiction | Alternate Reality Games

My Story of Organized Crime, Organized Stalking, Public/Political Corruption and Domestic Terrorism

Over a decade of organized stalking, extortion, schemes to defraud, racketeering/murder in aid thereof, in colossal proportion.

dianetot's Blog

its all about life,love,passion,desires,truth


Parapsychology is what's beyond the humans and metaphysics is what's beyond nature, and both define the same thing... God.


Défenseur de la Terre/Defender of the Earth

Hathor Rabiah

A new name. A new city. A new life.

Opening Duirs



The Chocolately, Nutty, Interior of my life and Psychology

Cindi Gale

To every thing there is a season ~

The Sting Of The Scorpion Blog (T.S.O.T.S.B.)

.......................Because Everything Else Just Bites!

Poetry Inspector

Favorites from around the Web

Los Sentidos De La Vida

Un Blog de Cine, Musica, Vinos... En 75 palabras aprox.

My Time is Now

Dancing With The Elderly- A Hollywood Actress's Day Job

let the free birds fly

surviving creating instigating



AshiAkira's Blog

Just another site

diary of a single mom in the south

my life, my love, my story

My Hong Kong Husband

Polish girl married to a Hongkonger, based in Hong Kong

Dean Baker's Poetry and Songs

A Canadian poet, his poetry & other works


Ramblings from a disturbed mind ©2013 Cho Wan Yau

Middle-Aged Martial Arts Mom

Loving a crippling compulsion....



Just me being curious

A blog of questions and few answers.

I Dont Want To Talk About It

The Ultimate Paradox: Depression in Sobriety

Shepherd Mulwanda

ICT Research Training and Consultancy,Agriculture for Youth Development.

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

White Shadows

Story of a white pearl that turned to ashes while waiting for a pheonix to be born inside her !


Trying to make sense of turmoil

Dince's Chronicles

My Personal Blog

Awareness It Self

Quotes for spiritual enjoyment

Doug Does Life

A Creative Monkey On How To Find Your Path In Life.


le blog de philosophie imprévisible de Jean-Paul Galibert

How my heart sings

Mainly poetry illustrated by beautiful photographs and digital art


This site is the bee's knees


Changing Our Mindset is the Imperative and Way Forward


my transformational journey into new light and occasional gushing of mind and heart - Corozal, Belize, CA

Life as Improv

Saying "Yes, and..." to life on the unfolding path to remembering full self.

Total Well-being

blog for

%d bloggers like this: