Not Every Question is a Threat

“What religion are you?”

The question hung in the air between the two teenagers engaged in a conversation about family rules and expectations. While I do not know this to be true, it appeared to me that they come from families with different expectations and limits in the area of movie and media consumption.

As I observed the interaction, I heard a question asked out of genuine curiosity. I thought that it was just a question with no other implications attached to it. It was merely part of the young man trying to understand the young lady’s family perspective.

Considering his tone and the context of the conversation though, I realized that it might be perceived as carrying an element of criticism or judgment.

I watched, listened, and waited for the young lady’s response.

Would she hear a threat and respond defensively? Would she flash anger and go on the attack? Or, would she simply answer the question?

“I’m a Christian,” she said calmly and confidently.  No sign of defensiveness. No indication of aggression. Just calm assurance.

The conversation continued without incident. It stayed friendly and interactive. No one became angry. No one argued. It came to a friendly conclusion.

Success – a potential unnecessary conflict avoided.

I was impressed. While I do not know exactly what was going on inside this young lady’s mind or exactly what she felt, I do know what I observed.  She dealt with the question as a question and not as a threat.

Many conflicts begin or escalate because one person or the other perceives a threat in the interaction. Once our natural threat response kicks in, most of us do not respond well. Often, our response is downright negative:

  • We get defensive.
  • We get angry.
  • We attack.
  • We retaliate.

We can all learn from what I observed in this interaction between two young people. In the end, they both showed a level of emotional maturity I often see lacking in people twice their age.

Not every question is a threat. Questions are often just questions.

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