We had a question run in the team the other day "What’s your favourite TV series?"
The first few answers were pretty straightforward: Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, 13 Reasons Why, and so on.
Then came this person who said: I feel like I’m really bad a TV series because I don’t want TV a lot. But if I have to pick one, it will be ABC.
Then the next person: well I don’t want TV either but …
Then the n-th person: I often have TV series play in the background while I’m surfing the internet so I’m not actually watching. But I’ve heard it from my friends that ABC is good so I will probably check it out.
And I sat there, thinking how interesting it was that people were going the extra miles to explain their TV watching habits and as a result, make the name of the shows they would mention later becomes less important albeit it is what answers the questions. What makes it compulsory that they have to pick something to sound like a part of the conversation and acknowledge that it’s a force-pick. Why wouldn’t anyone just say "I don’t have any favourites" or "I don’t want to pick my favourites because …". Why do people going around the question, rather than addressing the question? What does it say about people giving names and no explanation, vs people giving explanations then some names of the series?
From my point of view, with that question, I was expecting short and specific answers. I just said ‘Breaking Bad’ and moved on, as to me that’s enough information to answer the tabled question. I was not asked if I watch TV, if I have TV, how often I watch TV, or is there any show that I’ve heard of and will want to watch.
However, there are people who expand the questions asked. They take it as an opportunity to open up about themselves. There are people who are interested in knowing more about others, so they don’t just listen, they probe and clarify and tease out more personal insights from the speaker. They are looking for some hints of preferences and personality traits from the answers. And they find the delight in finding this new information. Which is totally cool.
It then goes back to what’s the point of the question? Why is it asked in the first place? Does it mean to gather data or information (note there’s a difference between data and information)? What’s the context the question was asked? Why is it a question for a crowd, but not in a one-on-one? Was it asked in a way that everybody can have the same understanding and interpretation? Is it a compulsory question? Can there be a No answer? What people who answer the question want the listener to know about them through their answers?
Some many questions for a question.