The first step to a better understanding of a person’s motives is relaxing the assumption that we already know them, or that it’s ever possible to know them for sure. When confronted with a situation that you don’t fully understand, take a moment to pause and ask why things are the way they are. If you are engaged in an argument, for example, instead of responding based on your immediate assumptions or beliefs about the other person's behavior, pose a question: ask them why they chose to act or speak as they did. This response allows you to step back from your preconceptions and approach the situation with an empathetic and curious mindset, which can lead to a more nuanced understanding and foster effective communication.

If someone appears upset or angry with you, resist the urge to become defensive. Instead, gently ask them why they feel the way they do. This approach has two key benefits: it defuses the immediate tension, and also provides valuable insight into the other person’s perspective, facilitating a more constructive path through the conflict.

As Socrates wisely said: The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. This is not to encourage self-deprecation, but to serve as a reminder to remain humble in our pursuit of understanding. When we question our assumptions and seek the why, we acknowledge the limitations of our knowledge and open ourselves to continuous learning. This humble curiosity paves the way to deeper wisdom and insight, and it all begins by asking why.

When asking why, remember to adopt an attitude of curiosity, not aggression. You’re not asking people to justify their actions; you’re seeking greater understanding of their behavior. Ask why as a means to encourage dialogue, enhance understanding, and nurture empathy.