Which Question are You? On the Art of Asking


It’s no accident that one of Instagram’s most popular features enables followers to ask questions of each other. Everyone loves being asked about themselves, not necessarily out of pride, but because, as human beings made for community, we naturally feel most supported when others express an active interest in our lives. Practicing the art of asking—in addition to truly active and empathetic listening—may become a powerful way to develop this interpersonal curiosity through conversation.

What. When. Where. How. Why. Who.

It seems that there are two key groups of questions, the first being the details: what, when, and where.

And the second group being the development: how, who, and why.

I have been trying to ask more questions in general, but it recently occurred to me that it’s not always about asking more questions or even about asking better questions, but about asking the right kinds of questions.

I feel best known, for instance, when people ask what I am working on, what I like to do in my free time, what I hope for in the next year. And I feel most valued when people seem genuinely interested and appreciative of what I do. Likewise, I tend to ask people what they are working on and am more prone to ask about people’s projects and careers than their feelings, though I am doing my best to grow in this area.

Similarly, I also tend to ask when and where because, being a planner and something of a perfectionist, I like to know what to expect and how to best be prepared. As a result, I often ask people where they like to study and when I can expect to see them again; for me, these questions are about forming a solid plan to facilitate future meetings and foster companionship.

Rather than simply recognizing my preferred questions and forcing other people to cater to my personality, though, I hope to use this realization to better engage with others in dialogue and relationship. Recognizing that someone I love is more of a “who/why” questioner will help me ask better questions about his/her relationships, motivators, and goals, ultimately deepening our communication and understanding.

Again, this is not a comprehensive theory by any means, nor will I create a catchy quiz to help you all sort out new identities based on the 5 Ws and 1 H (there are too many competing numbers and letter combinations out there already anyway). I do think, though, that the following may prove helpful to those of you who, like me, find yourself struggling to know what to say—or better, what to ask.

Questions and Tendencies:

What: From my personal experience, people who ask what-based questions tend to be focused, task-oriented, and pragmatic. They want the facts and checklists and step-by-step plans for success. However, these people are likely to also be highly-conceptual, potentially more interested in understanding theories and projects than relationships or emotions. To encourage these individuals, consider asking about their current pet projects, and offering positive comments about their work.

Where/When: I’ve grouped these together as they are both centered on planning and preparation. Again, from my experience, these askers are often regimented individuals who value foresight and preparation. Alternately, these individuals may be prone to worry; asking about time and place may be a way of creating a less-anxious future. Continually asking where or when-based questions may be a way of easing the stress of scheduling, securing quality time in relationships, and/or voicing expectations.

Who: I love people who ask who-based questions because they inspire me in their care for others. These askers are likely very caring and relational, even asking about the friends of friends of friends in an effort to get to know someone through their social circle. They will likely want others to show the same care for their community and appreciate it when others check in on their loved ones as well. These individuals thrive on questions that foster deeper companionship and a broader sense of community.

How: There are two types of “how” questions: emotional and technical. Those who ask “How are you?” and follow up with specific inquiries about a person’s wellbeing are demonstrating a more emotionally-aware version of how-based questions. More akin to when/where/what askers are those who ask “How?” in order to gain practical insight into the method by which something is accomplished. Both versions, however, can evidence an intrinsic curiosity and desire for deeper knowledge which I admire. (Interestingly, “knowledge” itself carries a similar dual nature as we can know about a person or thing, or genuinely seek to know a person or thing.) Askers of both types will appreciate reciprocated curiosity and active listening.

Why: More than once, I’ve been frustrated by someone daring to ask me “Why?” because this question cuts to the heart of the others. Those who are careless with it may come across as cynics, while those who never ask it may lack discernment. Those who ask why-based questions often are value-driven, desiring to act in accordance with their well-considered ideals. Asking why-based questions of another person can either express interest in or challenge their fundamental motivations, so it must be approached with sensitivity. However, this may render “Why?” the most telling question of all, and those who ask it tactfully may learn a great deal about others and themselves.

So, what do you think of this idea? Or, maybe, who do you think of when reading this? Or, where/when do you see this being applicable in your life? How do you think this little thought-project may be helpful?

For once, the “Why?” of the matter is simple. Why write or read or share this article? Why consider the different ways in which we ask questions?

Why? Because, I hope, we desire to be better equipped to communicate effectively, care personally, and connect meaningfully, and asking the right kind of questions might just be a good way to start. We might practice leaning into the questions that we naturally ask well—with good questions leading to more, deeper questions—as well as broaden our curiosity to encompass the full range of asking.

Another Open Letter from an INTJ

Hello again!

A while ago I posted “a Rare Open Letter from an INTJ” and feel inclined to continue this one-sided correspondence with another.

A word that is not commonly associated with the INTJ personality combination is “emotional.” Another such word might be “caring” or “friendly.” Well, to quote a wise television character: FALSE.

INTJs are not unfeeling; rather, we simply like to keep our deepest feelings to ourselves. Jane Austen, in Emma, “If I loved…less, I might be able to talk about it more.” This principle is true of most emotions for the INTJ: tumblr_lrsc4pwqGA1qcbmnfo1_500the greater the emotion, the more hesitant to reveal it. As introverts and thinkers, we tend to dwell upon feelings and only share when we can explain them and are truly comfortable. And, in the midst of dwelling on these feelings, if we do not find any logic to explain them, we will try to either force them to conform to what we see as logical or attempt to forget them. This usually does not work very well as, try as we might, we cannot logic away everything. The need to eat, for instance. Or the basic human need for communication. (Hence this blog…)

INTJs are also not uncaring. At first, people of this type- myself included- 19ac3dfb771ebcd4e8dbee5c2cc526dbmay come across as reserved or aloof, not necessarily seeming the warm and fuzzy type. But we do care just as deeply as we feel. To quote Jane Austen again, “There is nothing in the world I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature.” INTJs might not be as overtly caring as other personalities (ENFPs, for example), but when they find people that genuinely matter to them, they will put the same intense care into their friendships or relationships that they do their other pursuits.

This leads me to another point: how INTJs show that they care. Like I said, the INTJ may not express caring in an obvious way, such as with a spontaneous hug or card, but428965_3251061123447_508615621_n that does not mean he or she is not trying. From my own experience as an INTJ, I often show that I care through actions and time. You see, time is valuable to the INTJ, so if an INTJ expresses a wish to spend time with you, then you can be assured that he or she appreciates your company and is trying to care for you by setting aside that time. As analyzers, INTJs might also show caring through problem solving, an area in which they particularly excel.


If an INTJ offers advice or tries to help, even if it seems uncalled for or pushy, he or she is actually just trying to show that he/she cares enough to want to improve things for you.

So INTJs do feel emotion and do care, but express these in different ways. What does this mean? Well, obviously we cannot just shout “I’m an INTJ!!!” and refuse to share our feelings with the world or anything. That’s silly. INTJs, in order to be well-rounded, will need to show caring in other ways, as well as to share their emotions from time to time. What we need is people who honestly want to listen to us and make us feel safe in sharing the various emotions and ideas that are bouncing around in our heads. And regarding caring…INTJs will have to learn to care in other ways. I have learned that others often prefer a comforting hug to a strongly-worded letter confronting their issue and have had to adjust accordingly. But others should be aware of the ways in which INTJs care and know that, when an INTJ makes time for them or tries to help, he or she truly values their friendship.

That’s all. Carry on with your lives. Maybe force an INTJ into a hug or something to show that you appreciate them, weird little personalities that they are. 😉




A Rare Open Letter from an INTJ

“You’re funny! I had no idea.”

“We will have to draw you out of your shell.”

“I used to be scared of you.”

These are sentences I have heard often throughout my life and I am sure than many other people like me- INTJs and similar personalities, have had to listen to the same basic statements throughout their lives as well. Just yesterday, I heard another such line. I told my mom that I was planning a few social events and she pretty much congratulated me. 
“What?” I protested. “I can be social!”

Can be. That’s the difference. When you want to be, you can be social.” 

Now I was even more confused.

“You are not anti-social, but when socializing is not your object at the moment, you are very focused, giving off a distant vibe and walking with an out-of-my-way-peasants air,” she continued to explain.

Ouch, I thought. In all honesty, I had no idea that this is how I can sometimes come across and my mother was right; it’s not that I am shy or that I am rude. I am simply focused and this is the case for most people of my personality type. I found myself wishing I could explain this to others and, fortunately, realized that with this blog, I can!

First of all, is the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator 100% accurate? No. And do people live according to their personality combination? Absolutely not. For instance, I may be classified as an introvert, but I still love being around friends, as aforesaid. Okay, now that we have established that I do not swear by the Myers-Briggs or take it to be certain fact, here are five things that INTJs wish we could tell others:


1. We are not always the villain. 


Sure, every comic book, movie, and novel seems to cast an INTJ as the antagonist and let’s face it, INTJs can be terrible (take me when I am tired or hungry, for instance…scary…). However, we are more than the Moriartys of the world. We are not all plotting world domination. Not seriously, anyway. Jane Austen is thought to have been and INTJ, as well as C.S. Lewis and even some of the best characters dreamed up by such authors match this personality type. So if you are aware of the Myers-Briggs and meet someone who claims to be an INTJ, you don’t need to call the Avengers or try to solve a mystery before a hospital explodes because that is fiction and we are just people, not supervillains. 


2. We want to be included, but do not like being the initiator. 


As I have said now several times, I like to be social and I especially like to know that people want to be around me. I am usually too reserved to approach a group and leap into their conversation or host a party of my own, but I do wish to be a part of such things. It is a tricky spot, wanting to be a part but not wanting to be assertive. That said, it means a lot when another person takes the initiative so we do not have to, so do an INTJ in your life a favor and text him/her first, invite him/her to something, or-best of all- just talk to him/her! It will definitely be appreciated, even if the INTJ’s face remains impassive. 😉


3. We are not angry or rude: just focused.


INTJ personalities are considered “the scientist” of the personalities; people of this type, myself included, have an intense focuse that they find incredibly hard to abandon, even for a few minutes. However, if we brush past you or fail to return your friendly smile, we mean no disregard. Actually, upon realizing that I have done this, I felt absolutely dreadful and wanted to rush out and hug the poor ignored person! If an INTJ does seem unfeeling or brusque, he or she, nine times out of ten, is just deep in thought or focused on something unrelated. Do not be offended; just smile again or try again later. 


4. We are not robots.   


 I do not cry in public. Scratch that: I don’t cry in front of anyone outside of my parents and even then it is rare. However, while everyone else is sobbing at the theater while watching Les Miserables and the INTJ is sitting there apparently unmoved, it is not that he or she is heartless; he or she just processes things internally and does not feel the need to always manifest this processing as a visible emotion. Okay, that made us sound robotic, which is exactly the opposite of my point. Ugh. I’ll just say that when I found myself surrounded by crying people at the movies, I was saddened by Fantine’s plight as well, but although I yawned and thought of dead puppies and bit my cheek, I could not force any tears to fall. I felt sad too and really wanted to show some of this emotion, but beneath all of this, I could not. You see, INTJs are human too, but just do not have as easy of a time showing their human emotion. In a showdown between logic and feeling, even if feeling ought to win, we will try our best to choose logic.


5. Overthinking is just what we do.


Ultimately, I do not initiate conversations and such because I have overthought them so much that I have scared myself into not bothering. However, I have realized that the most fun I have ever had has been had when I am not thinking at all. When an INTJ chooses to ditch his or her filter, saying whatever silly comment comes to mind without fear of sounding ridiculous and hugging that friend without worrying about accidentally reinacting the disastrous Voldemort-Draco embrace (*shudders*), he or she not only has a more enjoyable time, but is a more pleasant person to be around. As I said just the other day, I can be really loud when I am comfortable, but many times I just do not know what to do due to overanalyzing and psych myself out into silence. 


There you are: five things that INTJs wish they could tell you, a sort of disclaimer and warning for this personality type, if you will. However, once more I want to emphasize that this post is based on generalities and my own personal experience; there are always exceptions. Still, do an INTJ in your life a favor and give a hug, send a text, or say hello. He or she might struggle, forget to reply, or not hear you, but it is still appreciated more greatly than you know. 🙂