I love asking controversial questions.
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Why is it called a drive-through if you stop? Why do you park in a driveway and drive on a parkway? Does my “yellow” look the same as your “yellow?” Does the morning or night person have it better? How do you pronounce GIF? What is the proper size for a television?
I do not ask them in order to get an answer. I ask these types of questions in order to learn something about the other person. People make assumptions about each other immediately before, during, and after their first interactions. My favorite question to ask in order to learn about a person remains, “Is a hot dog a sandwich?”
Of course, there is no right answer. Honestly, who cares?
Try it. Ask someone if they consider a hot dog to be a type of sandwich. Though, do not wait for those final few words of someone’s explanation while they ramble on. Pay attention to what they say first, if they ask for your opinion, or if they even give an answer. How attached are they to their final conclusion? All of these bits and pieces can give you crucial insights into someone’s brain with a trivial question like this one.
What do they say? Do they side with Dictionary.com and define the delicacy as “a sandwich consisting of a frankfurter in a split roll” (“Hot dog,” Dictionary.com). Or, do they take this opportunity to soak up the time and your attention like the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC). If they resemble the first option, approaching the question with a logical, methodical conclusion process, this can point you towards assuming that the person is thoughtful and cares about what he or she says when asked their opinion. Conversely, the person might soak up the spotlight and use irrational logic like the NHDSC, which publishes, “saying a hot dog is ‘just a sandwich’ is like calling the Dalai Lama ‘just a guy’” (“Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich,” NHDSC).
The first thought of the person you are questioning is crucial to understanding how they will structure the rest of their explanation. Human nature forces us to sort the person into the first set of categories. Does this person have common sense? Are they comparing a hot dog to the living religious leader of Hinduism? If you are inclined to answer yes to the first question, then the person probably chose to offer a thoughtful answer with decent explanation and reason. If the second question yields a yes, then you should evaluate the legitimacy of the rest of the person’s explanation and validity of their final conclusion.
Do they ask for your opinion? After all, “more hands for lighter work,” “the more the merrier,” “teamwork makes the dream work,” and “two heads are better than one!” This part of their response, again, can tell you a lot about the person with whom you are speaking. Fundamentally, asking you for your opinion tells you that they are willing to admit that they do not know, or that they believe they do not have the best information in order to come to the right conclusion. In other words, admitting they do not know. But, if someone gives their whole answer without asking what you think, it should not count against them. Besides, you asked them a question: they are expecting that you want their answer. So, do not think less of a person who does not ask you their opinion, but pay special attention to those who do ask you for your opinion. The inquiry can point to self-confidence and willingness to arrive at the most accurate answer, as opposed to the quickest answer.
Do they even arrive at an answer? Do they end with an “I don’t know?” When this question was given to the New York State Tax Bulletin, they replied with, “sandwiches include cold or hot sandwiches of every kind that are prepared and ready to be eaten” (“Sandwiches ST-835,” New York State Tax Bulletin). Someone also has the option and possibility to end up with no real opinion. Often, offering a few logical observations, admitting they do not, and asking your opinion is the perfect response people are waiting for. Though, giving the question minimal thought and just saying “I don’t know, why?” is not an answer you can deduct much information from. While not arriving at a conclusion can offer a powerful insight into someone’s brain, someone can also use this as a cop out for answering the question.
At the end, how emotionally attached are they to their final answer? This is my favorite part. Do they give a dramatic yes or no? Could they care less? Here, you can evaluate their interest in what you are saying. Generally speaking, regardless of their conclusion, a passionate answer or a dull answer can point to whether they are interested in you or value the conversation as a whole. While you have been building assumptions of what kind of person they are, they have been doing the same for you. If you pass their test, they will give you a thoughtful and legitimate answer. If they think you are as dumb as rocks, expect a stone-faced response.
Questions like these give you a way to see into someone—or not. Are they an open-minded person? Will they give this a chance? All of these, you can put together in your head after popping one of these controversial questions. Use these questions to your advantage, put your human nature to work, and make your assumptions count.
On another note, is “hot dog” two words? Or is it a compound word?
“Hot dog” Def. 2. Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 25 March 2018.
“Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?” NHDSC, National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, 2016. Web. 25 March 2018.
“Sandwiches.” Sandwiches, New York State Tax Bulletin ST-835, n.d. Web. 25 March 2018