Instead of asking why, ask “what made you decide?”

Asking “Why did you..?” can make people feel judged or attacked, which is likely to put them on the defensive. In extreme cases, this may even cause an Amygdala Hijack, completely shutting down their ability to reason about a situation.

To avoid this from happening, it’s better to take a more neutral approach, using phrases such as:

  • What made you decide to..?
  • When you did …, what motivated this decision?
  • What were the criteria you used to decide on..?
  • Walk me through your thought process when you decided to…

This implies a desire to understand and ensures a lack of judgment or blame on the part of the person asking the question, while also forcing the recipient to reflect on what happened, engaging the rational and analytical parts of their brain.