The kind of e-mail you like getting from a student:

What I wanted to tell you was that as I walked to my car triumphantly, I was taken aback by a distinct but powerful desire to explain my new decision to you. Why? I felt so good about my choice that I think I wanted to be interrogated by you and your often-obnoxiously probing questions (that’s a compliment). I imagined how the conversation would go and the way you might challenge my choice to provoke critical thinking. Then I thought about how well I’d be able to handle the scrutiny and cackled. So thank you for unwittingly validating my big decisions.

Although I like getting this kind of e-mail, I wonder what it says about me that I can be characterized, accurately—or so friends tell me—as asking “often-obnoxiously probing questions.” Furthermore, I wonder what it says that I’ve caused that habit to be internalized in others, too.

Discuss in the comments section. Bonus points to answers that include obnoxious, probing questions.

(I asked the student in question if she minded me posting this excerpt, and she wrote back: “please DO use my comments in a blog post. I’m actually kind of regretting that I didn’t send you the first draft. I waited a good half hour or so and then tuned the language down before sending it because I didn’t want to risk offending you. :P The theme was the same (and still intended as complimentary).” Fortunately, I’m notably hard to offend.)

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