When we are asked a question, we want to give the best possible answer. In order to do that, it will be helpful, if we can discern the intention of the questioner.
We would want to know: why is this person asking this particular question? What is his motive, his reason or concern?
How much should we say in response and from what angle should we approach the subject?
Questions should be answered with: graciousness, in a palatable manner and with knowledge of the motive for the inquiry.
Graciousness: implies being patient, kind, courteous, and being genuinely concerned about the person, the individual thatis asking the question.
Palatable: implies that our response is in good taste and pleasant to the inquirer.
Figuring out the motive or reason or concern implies that we tailor the answer to each particular individual. Our answer is not one size fits all. We tailor make each reply to the particular individual.
You see, each person is different and their motive and reason for asking a particular question might also be different.
So we see that it is important to meditate and give some careful forethought before responding to a question.
So, we want to know, what exactly do they want to know by that particular question?
So how can we discern that? How can we discern the intention behind the question?
1) One way would be, not to answer right away when someone asks us a question. Don’t answer to quickly. We should not assume that we know why they are asking that question. In other words, let them finish speaking. Let them elaborate. The more they say, the better will know how to answer.
2) If we’re not sure about the intention of the question, we might inquire about it. We might ask questions such as: I’m not sure why you are asking that question; could you give me a bit more of an explanation? I’m not quite sure what you mean by that question, may I ask why you are asking that question? I’m not quite sure what you are concerned about; could you explain why this question comes up?
Let’s take an example of questions that we sometimes are
Will the world end in 2012?
The question by itself doesn’t tell us his viewpoint for asking the question. Like: Why does he think this is valid concern? Does he take this prediction seriously?
Yes, with all questions it will help us immensely if we knew the questioner’s viewpoint for asking a particular question.
Let’s say we are asked that question; we might reason before we reply. I wonder why he is asking that question. Is it because of the news reports about the Mayan calendar? Could be, but just to be sure, I’ll ask him that question. By asking him a question we’ll know the reason and concern that he might have.
We might ask additional questions to see exactly what they are concerned about or want to know. We could ask: What do you think will end? Are you really concerned about it? What exactly is your concern? Do you think the world is the same as the earth? What do you think is a more reliable source of information the Mayan calendar or the Bible?
Now notice what the Bible has to say about the end of the world. Read 1 John 2:17. Yes, it does say that the world is passing away but notice that he that does the will of God remains forever? Would you like to be one of those that remains forever? (See also Revelation 7:14, Matthew. 24:36)
So when we are asked a question, let’s try to understand why they are asking that question and what their viewpoint is on that question. Then we can reply with graciousness, make the reply as pleasant and tasteful as possible and tailor it to the particular individual’s concern.