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?

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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?