The Art of the Rhetorical ‘Why Not’?

By Kate

Breaking bad rules for good reasons, hopefully planting seeds of thought along the way.

February 3, 2021

The question ‘why not?‘, is one which I’m pretty certain we are all familiar with. I don’t think it’s a bold claim to assume that we tell ourselves why we shouldn’t do things on a daily basis.


There’s a whole list of why nots when you think about them. Answering the door in your pants, for example, why not? Probably because we’d like to save the poor postie from going into shock on a Tuesday morning. Why are we not driving blindfolded? It takes away one of the most critical senses for driving and we’d like not to mow down half of the village on our way to work.


But, these aren’t the why nots I’m suggesting we address. Mere common sense is hard to come by and so I’m not suggesting or endorsing throwing caution to the wind and common sense out of the window.. however, what I may be suggesting is that we take more time to analyse our ‘why not’ reasons, and consider whether they have come about because of societal pressure, family judgement or heaven forbid, social media influence.


Of course, take this with a pinch of salt as I’m writing in the midst of a global pandemic where the spontaneity is vastly different to 18 months ago. But, let’s take on one of the most common dreams in a fulfilling life – traveling. Think back to those blissfully ignorant days where Covid was non-existent and imagine it’s possible for a second. It may be that you’ve always dreamt of travel, moving to a different country, perhaps even working and settling there for a while.. but the why not, and sometimes what if, creeps in.. because what happens if I don’t like it? Am I too old now? Should I be trying to save to buy a house for my (currently non-existent) future partner and I? What about my (also, non-existent) future kids? If I travel, will I have them? And so we end up spending all of this time so worried about the reasons not to do things, so hung up on their potential downfalls and the ‘why nots’. This means we forget that there are huge reasons why we should- it’s not only justifiable, but it can also be a great idea to take the risk of upheaving yourself and moving to a new country!


So here’s a new way of thinking about those pesky, inhibitory why nots.  What about asking them rhetorically?!


I had a friend who would answer why not rhetorically to nearly any questions he was asked. The suggestion may have been a trip to the beach.. sure, why not? A literal trip.. sure, why not? We could have quite easily talked ourselves out of procrastinating work or taking a mid-week A-trip. But do we have any regrets for skiving work and swimming in the ocean? Absolutely not. Or do we have any regret that we spent hours enjoying nature and marvelling at its beauty? The answer is also no.


I guess what I’m suggesting is not that you are completely thrivilous with decision making but that you could ask yourself why not in a much more rhetorical manner, and that you’d probably be a lot happier for it. We’re constantly bogged down with other people’s opinions of what we should or shouldn’t do. Don’t let yourself be a part of the problem.