When posed as a stand alone question, “and?” takes on a larger sense of ambiguity. With such an inherent ambiguity about itself, the answer to the question is more revealing of the overall situation than the answer itself.
This post as an examination of “and?” comes from an episode of the TV series, Community. The scene which sparked this post is attached below, but in case you’re not able to watch it at the moment, here’s the jist of it:
Abed and Troy (two best friends) are sitting casually on a couch and begin a word game where they say one word after one another to eventually craft a sentence. It starts very simply with “Once…upon…a…time…there…was…a” and after this is the first time a character actually has to make a decision, everything before was elementary and formed naturally. Troy, who first struggles for a second, replies with “big.” When Abed replies with “spaceship,” Troy turns his head out of curiosity. He’s become a bit more interested.
This is where it all begins, Troy then adds “and,” however, it’s an open-ended “and?” Each time Abed replies with something exciting, and so Troy becomes more curious and interested, and his “and”s become more enthusiastic. Here’s how it plays out completely:
When the short story comes to an end, Troy looks exhilarated, and only for a brief second looks sad that it’s over, but immediately regains excitement. Why was he so excited? Because he took part in the crafting of the story even if his main role was asking “and?” That’s the problem most of us encounter: we aren’t allowing our audience or our friends to ask “and?” or we’re cutting to the end too quickly.
When we start to incorporate “and?” more, there are two ways it can go. One, those that you’re interacting with (your audience or friends) can be the one’s asking “and?” which means they want you to sculpt the story. Two, you can continually pose the question of “and?” which allows them to determine the content, what happens next, and ultimately the story.
The tricky part is determining who should be asking. The easiest way to approach it is, if no one else is asking you “and?” then you should start asking them. When you start asking the question and allowing them to shape the story, they’ll soon enough be asking you.
The main reason no one is likely asking right now is because “and?” is a tough question and we all know it. We tend to avoid the question all together, and use “that’s it” as our safety net.
“And?” is such an important question though because it has an inherent curiosity to it. It’s not necessarily about the addition of something or wanting more, but rather potential. “And?” highlights potential, in a sense determining whether or not it’s there, and will reveal if people are actually interested in what you’re doing.
You can look at “and?” in a linear sense as in what comes next, or you can look at it in a rhetoric sense as in does it matter? That’s what this all breaks down to which is why “and?” is so powerful, it reveals the truth and poses the difficult question of “does it matter?”