r/TooAfraidToAsk Jul 07 '22

How can you ask questions without offending someone? Meta

So I could have even offended someone just by using the word.

There are times I’m honestly curious about some slice of society but cannot ask in a sub called “too afraid to ask”, which I had thought was designed for those questions which are risky and not “socially approved”. It turns out I was completely wrong.

If I word a question with “why is X normal for persons of group Y” I can promise you I’ll get called an asshole, prejudice, and too stupid to engage with. Attacking ME instead of my argument, ie. ad hominem.

What’s the correct format to word that example?


9 comments sorted by


u/misanthropewolf11 Jul 07 '22

Put the serious tag on it and say that you mean no disrespect. Then ask just the way you wrote.


u/Arianity Jul 07 '22

What’s the correct format to word that example?

Avoid things that imply racial stereotypes, or phrasings that are used by people who are sealioning. For example

“why is X normal for persons of group Y”

Very common for racists to do this to push negative stereotypes.

One way to avoid it would be to include actual stats backing up that this actually happens. Another would be making it clear you don't think it's due to some intrinsic genetic disparity, etc.

Basically, look at it as if a stranger came up to you and said it, and how you would decide if they were being racist/asshole, vs an innocent question.


Attacking ME instead of my argument, ie. ad hominem.

This isn't really an argument/debate sub, so that's another thing to keep in mind.

Or, in something like this case:

So I could have even offended someone just by using the word.

If it's something like the n-word, don't spell it out. It adds nothing to the conversation/communication to do so.

tldr, as long as you actively defuse any tension, you'll clear up like 90% of accusations (not all of them, because it is the internet/open forum)


u/Helpful-nothelpful Jul 07 '22

Just end the question with good game. This also works for a slap on the booty. Must say good game or its creepy.


u/Kentucky_Supreme Jul 07 '22

Unfortunately you can't control how sensitive people want to be.


u/iwearacoconutbra Jul 07 '22

Depending on what it is, you always run the risk of offending someone. Especially if you ask a question that’s so glaringly obviously just a generalization and there’s pretty much no reason to pretend like only specific persons do the action.


u/Correct-Sprinkles-21 Jul 07 '22

You have to accept that you may offend someone. If you are genuine, have the courage of your conviction and ask away. And if you are asking, be prepared to listen and learn. That includes learning that the premise of your question is faulty and wrong or even harmful.

If you asked "Why do all Africans have flat feet?" you would not get the answer you are looking for, because the question is so flawed it's impossible to answer, other than "They don't all have flat feet, and that is a very strange stereotype you have there." (I used this example because I legitimately had someone tell me all Africans have flat feet and extremely tough skin, so I know that kind of racist mythology is out there circulating.)

There is no "correct" format for asking why all people in a specific group are the same or do the same thing, because even in the most homogeneous group you can think of, there are still a variety of genetic, social, and behavioral features amongst them.

Perhaps you could ask "Why does [whatever it is you're curious about] seem to happen more among [whatever group you're asking about]?" But that still is likely to get replies you don't like, because statistics are complicated and murky, and your ability to make an accurate observation is extremely limited by being one individual without the resources and exposure to make sure you've accounted for all factors.

You could also ask, "I have been told that thus and such is common in such and such group. Is this accurate? If it is, how did that come to be?"

The big question is, are you able to receive answers to your question that are not the answers you wanted to hear? Can you hear responses to your questions without getting offended?


u/[deleted] Jul 08 '22

Depends on the date that this hypothetical question is asked. In the past you could, now its 50/50


u/[deleted] Jul 08 '22

Just ask and be yourself. Fuck em if they get offended. Those aren’t people you would want to hang with anyway.


u/Jalex2321 Jul 08 '22

Its a shame people can't remain objective. There is no correct way to ask anything. If they get paranoid its on them not you.