Come back with exactly the same question!


At 6:15 AM on the Wednesday 2 ½ weeks before Christmas last year a woman asked me if I was all set for Christmas. She was a complete stranger and we were walking along a corridor at the Emory Midtown Hospital. I said briefly how plans were progressing for Maggie and me and then turned her question around and asked her: “How about your plans?”

“I am having 82 people to our house in Hayesville this weekend” she said.  “Last year we had 84. Things are pretty well lined up, she said. Then she outlined a number of the details necessary to pull off the huge affair.  I am convinced that she actively wanted to tell me about the throng of people expected at her house. It was on her mind and in her heart and I feel quite sure that a number of others she would be with that Wednesday would hear about this gala affair!  I told her WOW! And wished her the very best. 

          If someone asks you as question, it may be telling you what he or she wants you to ask in return.  That initial question may be asked almost as an invitation to you to ask the same question of the person standing opposite you.

Often we ask about another person’s children and this tends to be genuinely appreciated.  In some cases we are hoping that this will lead to a question about our own children, and if this does not happen we may be disappointed.

          Another example: recently I heard a person ask another person: “Do you have any great grandchildren.”  The answer was “Yes, and it was just recently. This is my first.” He turned the question around and asked,  “And what about you?”

“Oh yes, I now I have three great grandchildren!” came back the enthusiastic reply.

The next time someone asks you a question, answer it and then consider coming right back to him or her with exactly the same query.

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, Georgia