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Killing Tired Questions

As a qualitative researcher, it’s always interesting to see how people ask and answer questions. One tired question you often hear in a variety of settings is: “Which three people, living or dead, would you most want to attend a dinner party you’re throwing?” Yes, it’s a wide open question, inviting a variety of response. Supposedly, the question provides insight into the mind of the respondent. Take a second and I’m sure you can predict the top answers you or any of your friends might give.

Chuck Klosterman, however, recently killed the question for good. In the July 18, 2019 New York Times Book Review, he gives possibly the greatest and most well thought out answer to this question ever.

Specifically, he brings up the idea of any dead person being more interesting than any living person since they can answer questions surrounding the mysteries of the universe no one else could know and talks about the problems with living writers at any dinner and contemplates the issues of someone from another time freaking out at the advances of modern life.

“The only problem is that dead people might not understand what was going on, why they were suddenly alive, or why they were being forced to make conversation with some bozo at a weird dinner party. They might just sit there and scream for two hours.”

New York Times Book Review – July 18, 2019

His response exposes the problem with asking tired questions we’ve all heard before. Think about how many times a tired question gets, well, a tired answer. Ultimately, unless you’re able to answer like Mr. Klosterman, what does anyone really learn from the question or the answer?

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