Is There Such Thing as a Bad Question?
Oh, to question. Who, What, where, when, how, and why. These words can lead to some interesting answers, depending on what you are trying to figure out. Our curiosity leads us down many paths of inquiry. Our natural human nature to question everything has led us to many amazing discoveries and innovations, which have progressed our society's advancements further than what we could imagine. Because we question, we learn and then share that knowledge with the world. Our inquisitive minds are buzzing with delight and wonder. We have to find the answer.
When my kids were little, they loved to ask why. And we loved to give them an explanation, and my husband and I would marvel at the expression on their faces as they pondered what we just explained. Gotta love those kiddos and their unfettered inquisitiveness.
As good as questions are. It is important in how they are asked. If you ask the incorrect question, you won't get the response you require. So if you want accurate information, you need to be specific.
I have an interesting relationship with questions, especially because I have a disability. People have all sorts of thoughts about it and are inclined to blurt them out no matter where I am: my work, grocery store, playground with my kids. No place is off-limits to someone who is not familiar with me. I have been asked all kinds of questions. Some interesting examples have been. Were you in an accident, did your mom take thalidomide when she was pregnant, were your parent's sinners to make you this way, does it hurt, can I catch it, are you a mutant, were you sick as a kid? For the record. If you are wondering, it's no to all of those! The one that throws me off is. Do you have leprosy? What?? I'm just asking. In this day and age, is that still a thing? Ok, again, the answer is no. And here's the shocker. I have been asked this a few times in my life. These are not appropriate questions. So how is a person without a disability going to find out more about someone with a disability? Now I like this question.
For me. I like when people start with something like this. Is it ok if I ask you a question about your hands? Some people are nervous when approaching me about this. Yet, I would rather you talk with me than create an assumption and judge me on that view. Education is key to building bridges and making change. So let me educate you a little. I will either ask them what they would like to know, are you more comfortable if I tell you about myself, or would you like to know why I have only one finger. I often find that people like it if I tell them my story, and it takes the pressure off the whole interaction. That said. If you are looking for a way to approach an individual, in my opinion the questions don't have to be specific to the disability. Suppose someone looks like they need assistance. You can offer help by just asking Can I help you. If they answer no, then leave it if they answer yes. Ask them how you can best support them. They know what they need, so let them guide you. If you want to learn about their disability, you can try this. Introduce yourself and ask if they feel comfortable telling about themselves? Or Can you tell me about your hands? That one is more specific to me. Though I think you get the idea. These examples are simple and respectful. Done in a way that will lessen the discomfort of the person you are talking with and open up for a more meaningful conversation.
Also, if you spend some time getting to know someone without asking questions about their disability, you may find that they now have a cool new friend, and that person will tell you about their abilities and more in their own time. Then you will see just how amazing they are!
I will say that each person you meet that is differently-abled has a varied response to questions. Even if you ask a respectful question, someone may still feel offended. The best way to respond if you asked a question and someone is upset is to say that you are sorry and let them be. If you get mad that they are mad, it makes for a terribly uncomfortable situation.
For those out there that are reading this and may have a disability. My advice is this. I try to remember that people generally have good intentions and that someone approaches us, they might not know how to start a conversation or ask if we need help. Or even realize that what they are saying is disrespectful. This is an opportunity to make a difference. By setting this, people know what works and what doesn't. Otherwise, people will continue without knowing. I completely understand that this is not as easy as it sounds. I have often been caught off guard and not respond to someone out of my own fear or lack of confidence. So I try my best to educate when I can.
I hope this provides you with some ideas on what to try if you are curious about someones disability. And if you have any questions for me. Please feel to reach out to me.
Love from The Fingerless Kitchen,