The Second Question.

Erica Kuhl
Feb 14 · 3 min read

I settled into my seat for a long trip to Boston. I take out my AirPods and right as I’m about to put them in, my seat mate says “you heading home or leaving home?” I wasn’t in the mood to chat and had work to do, but also couldn’t be rude. I tell her I’m headed to Boston for work. 1.5 hours later she’s proceeded to tell me how incredibly successful her husband is, how perfect her three children are, and how they excel in tennis, softball, and lacrosse. How her daughter has always been a talented writer, how her son is a genius with numbers, and how her youngest is a free thinker and headed to the army. She tells me how she’s a stay-at-home mom but with a keen business sense and on and on and on. You get the picture.

This is a classic situation and seems to happen often in our family. We come from a long line of people analyzers. You could also say that means we are pretty “judgey” by nature. My mom is an unbelievable judge of character. She has a way of summing up someone’s personality in a very short amount of time after what she calls the “Second Question” test.

Something about her personality has always attracted people that share their life story with her within moments of meeting her. They share their deepest, darkest secrets with her — things they’ve never told anyone before. This has allowed her to do a lot of analysis because she can’t escape it (and I don’t think she even wants to!). So what’s the Second Question test?

Take the situation I just shared about the woman I sat next to on the flight to Boston. She asked the first question “you heading home or leaving home?” I said I was heading to Boston for work. I then said “What about you?” 20 min later she told me she was meeting her husband in Boston for the weekend after his business trip wrapped up and that her son was driving down to meet them too. I then ask “how old is your son?” This is the Second Question. If you can believe it, she never asked me another question again after 1.5 hours of talking. Shocking!

The Second Question demonstrates that you are curious and interested in learning more about someone. It’s my mother’s indicator that someone is not only focused on themselves and hearing themselves talk, but genuinely interested in hearing your story too. I know you might be thinking that’s a pretty quick way to make a personality judgement…but while I hate to admit this…she’s nearly ALWAYS right.

I’ve tested this theory out many times over the years and have come to the exact same conclusion. Most people love to hear themselves talk. I’m such a naturally curious person, I love asking questions (sometimes too many), and learning new things. It’s almost impossible for me to NOT ask the Second Question. Maybe it’s the power of my mother’s convictions coming through. I’m certainly not perfect at this and do find myself dominating conversations at times. But I keep the Second Question theory in the back of my mind at all times. I’ll catch myself and know it’s time to shut my mouth, ask a question and just listen. My challenge to you…ask that second question, you won’t regret it!

The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has it’s own reason for existing — Albert Einstein

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