Start by asking “Why?”

Lessons from Socratic Questioning, and how to apply it to your day-to-day

If any point in history is like a kid who doesn’t stop asking their dad questions to the point their dad either gets angry or tells the kid to ask their mom, it’d be the story of Socrates and the people of ancient Athens.

Socratic Questioning 101

What differs between a kid asking a billion questions to mom and dad and Socrates questioning passers-by with a probe on their beliefs, is the intention and direction as to where the questions were going.

  1. Getting an answer
  2. Following up with another question trying to get to the bottom of where the logic behind the person’s new answer came from
  3. Getting a slightly more clear answer as the person is thinking through their own logic more and reinforcing/up-rooting their own beliefs in the process
  4. Analyzing their new answer, and continuing to question the logic behind the answer. (Especially if there’s holes or inconsistencies with the logic)
  5. Repeat the cycle from step 2 onwards!

There’s another way to comfort your friends

At some point, everyone is going to find themselves in a position where they have to support someone emotionally. Your friend got dumped by the love of their life and the world is unfair now, your spouse lost their favorite job and it’s all because of that jerk of a boss they had; things happen and you’ve got to be there for the people you care for.

C: Ohio State University

People don’t usually like to challenge their own perception

I’ve sold Socratic questioning a lot in this piece but there is, of course, the elephant in the room that needs to be approached. People do not usually take kindly to having their world views flipped upside down, it kind of goes against the evolutionary programming we’re born with. Ultimately it was the Socratic questioning which landed Socrates on trial which would eventually lead to him being mandated to commit suicide by drinking Hemlock!

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways

I wanted to fixate on Socrates’ approach to questioning people because it serves as a really flexible tool you can use regardless of your philosophy is. It’s a way to challenge each other's thoughts and sharpen our minds, all well staying respectful and not burning bridges in the process.

  • You can employ Socratic questioning in situations where you are comforting someone.
  • Tread with caution and be intentional with your words, you run the risk of burning bridges with people if you question people with hostility or no regard for the emotional response they’ll naturally have to the questions’

Undergraduate builder & researcher @UofT in the crossroads of computer science, immunology, and genetic engineering.

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