I wrote a post recently how asking Why can be unhelpful. It isn’t always a bad thing though.
Life is pretty busy these days but when I have free time I like to train and coach mixed martial arts. I used to coach a noon Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class here in town regularly. One thing that’s really rewarding about coaching people how to do a spinning armbar or how to throw a proper jab is you break down the technique into it components, demonstrate the technique, tell them how and where to place their feet and hands and hips and after some repetition and drilling they get start to get the hang of it. By the end of the hour class they are noticeably better than when they started. As a coach, it’s a lot of fun to see and experience an instant improvement in their ability in just an hour or two of training. When you track the improvements over a few weeks or months, it’s even more empowering to see the growth, fitness and confidence.
Usually the gains in marriage counseling come a little slower.
In couples counseling we often debrief a recent conflict/conversation and break it down step by step, making adjustments. Sometimes there’s a quick improvement or just like with jiu jitsu a little adjustment or tweak can produce a big change. However, the norm is that it takes a little practice, in session and at home (where the true test occurs) for things to improve. Emotional and relational bad habits can be really hard to rewire and retrain compared to muscle memory.
It’s in those moments when the questions flare up.
Will this work? Is this worth it? Will I ever get the hang of this? Why is this so hard?
But just like coaching jiu jitsu or boxing there’s something even more rewarding in counseling than teaching and coaching how to do something different or giving advice on what to work on. The conversations I occasionally get to have at the gym about Why are special, the ones that move beyond where to grip and pull and pivot, to why, why do you train? why do you want to learn how to grapple or kickbox? Why do you do mixed martial arts instead of Zumba or yoga?
And in counseling, moving beyond the nuts and bolts of active listening and conflict resolution and parenting situations or what to say and how to say it to exploring or rediscovering the Why of marriage and communication, the Why of going to counseling and talking about what’s going on inside is something actively encourage.
Answering the Why goes a long way to seeing you through the learning curve, whether it’s learning how to throw a switch kick or use I-statements or listen non-defensively.
What I’ve noticed is that when couples get back in touch with the Why of what they are doing (or not doing), when parents remember the Why of what they want to accomplish with their children, a lot of the details work themselves out or take a big step in the right direction.