How to ask better questions [Friday Flow #5]

Rounded, Body, Grateful, Words

Hey, what’s up?

It’s raining as I write: the way it’s been much of this week, as I mentioned in my last email. (Fun fact: I found after moving to the UK that rain means something very different from what we mean by it in Nigeria—what we would call rain is a storm here, and UK rain is what we’d consider a drizzle! Language is wonderful.)

So what’s on my mind today? Well…

⭕️ This week’s essay on being well-rounded 
🤝 Another take on “it’s all ours” 
😍 You have the right to remain grateful 
🙋🏾‍♂️ The art of the good question
🦢 Words and waddlers
🤲🏾 This week’s Nigerian proverb

Let's get to it.

⭕️ This week’s essay on being well-rounded 

Did you catch my essay in your inbox this week? A friend recently told me about feeling like she was always been attacked by her boss, and only later realising that it was because the boss felt intimidated by her. It was surprising to her to finally realise it but it helped her finally make sense of the whole thing. That’s one example of the tension between brilliance and balance that you may have experienced yourself: we want to be outstanding, but that also means standing out, and sometimes feeling a bit exposed and vulnerable.

When I wanted to buy my first car, an older relative said to me: “Don’t buy a car that stands out too much for the part of town you live in”. It wasn’t something I’d really considered before that, but I quickly saw his point: unless I was prepared to live with the gossip, I’d best not stand out if I could help it. I decided I could live with it and bought the best car I liked that was within my budget—a secondhand Toyota Corolla that in other parts of town was really quite average—or less. 

But although I didn’t take the advice, I was grateful for the perspective it offered, and have thought about it often in many other decisions. For me, its value was threefold: it reminded me that choices come with social consequences, but also that those consequences, being social, will depend on where you are—and sometimes those consequences are deserved.

Read the entire thing here: Being well-rounded is overrated. (I got some feedback about not getting this week’s email, so please let me know if that was you as well.)

(Speaking of which: I mentioned in Wednesday’s email about switching from Substack to ConvertKit for my email provider. Well, I’m staying with Substack for now, after having issues with ConvertKit sending and formatting)

🤝 Another take on “it’s all ours”

So last week, I said:

In the language of my people, Yoruba, we say Kò tọ́pẹ́, which translates in English to, “It’s not worthy of thanks”—the equivalent in English is, “It’s nothing.”

Well, a friend reminded me of another way to say “thank you” in Yoruba (or as we write it, Yòrùbá):

Of course! 🤦🏾‍♂️

(To hear how “kò tọ́pẹ́” sounds, click the link to get Yoruba text to speech.)

The expression OluTimehin reminded me of, “Aà kíi dúpẹ́ ará ẹni” (click to hear), transliterates to “One does not thank one’s own body”. Which of course, like “It’s all ours”, shifts the focus from the person being thanked to the relationship between the one thanking and the one being thanked.

Why didn’t I remember it? Well, for one, it’s not said as often as the “It’s not worthy of thanks” variant. In fact, I’ve heard it much more from the elderly, and less so from younger people, so maybe it’s even being lost—which would be sad.

I still kinda prefer “it’s all ours” though, and that’s related to something I strongly believe, which is…

😍 You have the right to remain grateful

See, I love our Yoruba version: I love its reference to the body, the implication that you’re part of me, and I of you. I think that’s absolutely beautiful.

My thing with it, though, is it sort of turns down the gratitude of the other person. Gratitude is a spontaneous response to the kindness of another, and I feel strongly that one should accept it. To turn it down is to imply that the person expressing it is misguided—and since we almost never intend that, why not simply accept it and acknowledge their own right to be grateful?

(I know, I’m over-thinking this, but that’s not the content you’re here for, right? Welcome to my brain.)

Anyway, yeah, I feel strongly about letting people be grateful if they want to be, and not suggesting that there’s something wrong with their being so (which is also implied in responses like “It’s nothing”). Let people be grateful–but also accept gratitude with grace.

I feel like “it’s all ours” captures that balance perfectly. It acknowledges the gratitude while also reminding the grateful person of the relationship. The closest English comes that I can think of is “You’d do the same for me” which I say sometimes. (Not always because I can only honestly say it if I feel confident it’s true.) At any rate that feels to me like a poor second.

🙋🏾‍♂️The art of the good question

Yesterday, I spent a couple hours watching the US Congress hearing of the CEOs of the Big 4—Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google. (Don’t ask why a medical doctor even cares about that—I never claimed my interests were logical.)

The lawmakers took turns with CEOs, five minutes each, and asked questions ranging from the really insightful to what sounded like requests for tech support! And I got to thinking about what distinguished those who used their time well. They…

  • Had done their homework: They had clearly spent time reading up, had actual facts at hand, and knew exactly what they wanted to focus on. I couldn’t help wondering if those who asked poor questions assumed they knew more than they did. Speaking of focus, they…

  • Got to the point: Not one of the good questioners went over time, and almost of the poor ones repeatedly did. This was obviously a benefit of their having done their homework—you almost had the sense they might well have rehearsed for it. (I suspect at least a few did.)

  • Focused on facts instead of assumptions. The good questioners focused on specific details they had evidence of. The poor ones came in with assumptions about why CEOs had done things they didn’t have actual proof of—you could almost smell the relief of the CEOs!

  • Avoided pandering: This I can’t prove, but I wondered if some of the poorer questioners were deliberately pandering to their political base—asking questions so their supporters could feel good, rather than those that really mattered.

These points might seem obvious, but given that experienced lawmakers stumbled, applying them clearly isn’t. So rather than just mock them (far too easy) better to use it as a moment for self-reflection. Asking questions is part of my work as a doctor, and especially in psychiatry, and I feel I pretty well, but it’s always worth re-examining. (Not as efficient outside work, though!)

🦢 Words and waddlers

I've been working on the site, and you might notice it has a new home page and new fonts. (You can check it out here—I’d appreciate that!—and let me know if you like or whatever else you think.) I've also been tracking how much I write and realised that when I add this essay, my publishing total this year comes to 33,240 words. That’s not counting notes, tweets and other social media: just weekly essays (of which I missed some here and there) and this newsletter (only counting since I started Friday Flow). And somehow it still comes to over 33k words. It made me feel good about myself.

But you know what makes me feel even better?

That you read them.

That means the world to me. Thank you.

Meanwhile I thought I’d share a photo I took earlier this week, during a walk with friends, as we walked past the lovely waddling ducks and beautiful swans on St Margaret’s Loch (the Scottish name for “lake”). 

What I love about the photo? You wouldn’t know to look at it but this is right inside the city, not far from its centre. I feel like it sums up what I love about Edinburgh: it’s a city that doesn’t feel (to me anyway) overly urban, even though it is.

🤲🏾 This week’s Nigerian proverb

Since we’re still talking about gratitude, enjoy this proverb, familiar to many a Yoruba child—my mum quoted it at me all the time!

The one who is grateful is granted yet another kindness.

(I’m curious by the way: how interesting do you find these proverbs? Be honest!)

I’m always grateful for your time each week. Have a wonderful weekend. 🤗

Gratefully yours, 
Doc Ayomide

PS. Go ahead and reply to this email, leave a comment, or share it with a friend or on your social media!

Leave a comment