A Lesson from Socrates

A lesson from SocratesMany of us are trying to change our vocabulary to use FDA compliant language when talking about natural solutions, but it can be challenging. Do we quit talking or do we stand and fight by continuing to tell others about the natural solutions that work so well for us?

Here is a situation I expect to face quite often. The dreaded ‘disease’ question during a conversation about essential oils.

“My son has [fill in the blank with a disease name]. What oils should I use?”

Great question.

When was the last time someone asked you a question that you had NO idea how to answer? Last week? 2 days ago? 10 minutes ago?

When I was in school – a very long time ago – teachers didn’t ask questions to provoke thought. They asked questions to find out if the students could parrot the teacher. That was true even in most of my college courses. I suspect it is still true in most school systems today.

There are three basic ways to answer a question that you don’t know how to answer.

  1. Make something up.
  2. Say that you don’t know.
  3. Respond with a question to help track down the answer.

The third response is the type used by Socrates – there is actually a teaching technique named after him.

It wasn’t until I became a homeschooling mom that I started to value the wisdom of the Socratic method. (Even when I did know the answer to the question.)

According to Wikipedia, the Socratic method “is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.”

Sounds a bit vague, doesn’t it? What does that look like in real life?

A typical conversation between a parent and a child may look like this:

Child: “How much cacao powder should I put in this recipe?”
Parent: “1/4 cup”

Or, if the parent was attempting to teach by way of Socrates, the conversation could look like this:

Child: “How much cacao powder should I put in this recipe?”
Parent: “Are you doubling or tripling the recipe?”
Child: “I’m doubling it.”
Parent: “How much does the original recipe use?”
Child: “2 tablespoons”
Parent: “So 2 times 2 equals …?”
Child: “2 times 2 equals 4, so I’ll use 4 tablespoons of cacao powder, right?”
Parent: “You could, but first, look to see how many tablespoons are in a cup.”
Child: “There are 16 tablespoons in a cup, so 4 tablespoons equals … 1/4 cup.”
Parent: “Right. Is it easier to measure out 4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup?”
Child: “Well, I’m holding the measuring spoon, so I’m going to measure out 4 tablespoons.”

Let’s go back to those tough questions I mentioned earlier.

Q: When I’m talking about essential oils, how can I redirect ‘disease’ questions in a way that does not offend the person looking for information?

A: Act like Socrates and respond with another question.

The conversation could sound something like this:

Friend: “My son has [fill in the blank with a disease name]. What oils should I use?”
You: “It’s great that you are considering essential oils to help your son. Which body
system do you think needs the most support?”
Friend: “Well, the lungs are part of the respiratory system and maybe the immune system, too?”
You: “Here is a list of oils that may affect the respiratory system. Let’s compare it to the oils that may affect the immune system. Are there any oils common to both body systems that you want to investigate?”
Friend: “I want to find out about the Respiratory Blend. Let’s see … Frankincense, Lemon … Lime? really? …  Melaleuca … oh, and the Protective Blend.”
You: “Great. Let’s find out more about those oils…” *

That last conversation might be close to what Socrates intended. It achieves the true goal: Helping your friend learn to how to find the answer.

I would love to hear from you. How do you respond to the dreaded ‘disease’ questions?

kristine transparent signature



* I like to use the Wellness Language Toolbox for a convenient reference.


2 thoughts on “A Lesson from Socrates

  1. Great way to think!!! thanks for sharing. I find I do this with my children at home to get them to do the thinking instead of borrowing my brain. I didn’t know there was a name for it :)….Taking on homeschooling 5 this year for the first time too Yikes! I would love to pick your brain Kristine about that !

    • Lisa, you are a fantastic mom! You’ll do great. 🙂 I’d be happy to talk with you about our homeschool experiences!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge