A few days I go I was sitting in one of the committee board I am currently involved in. I am new to the team and I was in the process of learning new skills and also contributing my artistic talents to the group.
During the meeting, we shared lots of ideas and goals towards how to market for the event we are planning. Suddenly, I raised my hand and I said: “I have a stupid question to ask…” And there it was. My own fear of making a fool out of myself and my own judgments on how other members on the team might think of me. It brought me to start thinking.
What happened to us? When did we stop being curious and asking questions? What happened to the 3-year-old we had living within us the whole time?
One might argue, as we get older, we are supposed to be wiser and hence the reason why we stop asking questions. You may have managed to a higher degree, better jobs, becoming a senior executive director at a large corporation and you have a team of members you lead on a daily basis who relied on your expertise. Therefore, you stopped asking questions because we supposed to know everything. Right?
The truth is No matter what you may think, you do not know everything there is to know about a certain topic area, let alone life in general. While there are experts all over the world for any given focus, they themselves would tell you that they still have a lot to learn.
“The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” as the great philosopher Socrates once said.
Why Are We So Afraid to Ask Questions? Why is it that we find it so hard to ask?
To ask questions. To ask for help. To ask directions or ask forgiveness?
The answer I found was “FEAR”. Fear of losing control of the situation or humiliation. Fear of appearing less intelligent or incompetent. Fear of seeming unsure or unprepared. Fear of being the only one standing up in a classroom or meeting not knowing if anyone else feels the same way.
But there are more reasons than not to put yourself out there and start asking questions. Why? As it turns out, It is quite possible that if you are curious about something, so is someone else. When you are in a meeting of colleagues, it can be intimidating to see everyone around you looking engaged and comfortable with what’s being discussed. However, if you have any doubt whatsoever in the subject matter, someone else in the room is likely feeling the same way also.
With that being said, not only will you be helping yourself out, but you will be helping those around you by raising questions as well. Through the act of asking questions, we make ourselves look for answers, go down unfamiliar paths that allow us to expose ourselves to new ideas or information. By not accepting that something just is, we force ourselves to understand how come it is and with it, develop a better appreciation for it.
By raising questions in a group setting, you are often facilitating a further discussion within that group. Maybe what you asked will spark a thought of someone else or maybe your question was something the rest of the group hadn’t thought about yet. You contribute to bringing in ideas, brainstorms, and creativity within the group. You shouldn’t feel like your questions will take away from productivity or be a waste of time. If anything, asking lots of questions and brainstorming will likely help the team get better and make sure you have everything covered.
“The best way to teach is by example.”
Change is very hard. It actually means choosing the path of resistance, instead of the path of least resistance. But when people get into the habit and know they won’t get their head chopped off for asking questions, that in fact their questions will be welcomed, everything gets better.
All that said, next time around when you find yourself wondering if you should ask a question, do me a favor, ASK.