It’s easy to say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” but when you are genuinely the new one in town, at a job, or at a social gathering, you realize very quickly how intimidating it is to raise your hand and halt an entire discussion with a question that will undoubtedly reveal to everyone how little you know.
I’ve been in far too many situations over the last few weeks where I’ve been too nervous to say, “Wait, back up, I don’t understand. Can you explain that more?”
We all hope to show ourselves as intelligent, attentive, and capable adults, and asking questions can sometimes make us feel the opposite. Especially when that question is coming from the newbie in the room. So instead of imploring others for more details, we choose to sit in silence, nod in agreement, and later try to conduct our own research to figure out what everyone was talking about.
Asking what feels like stupid questions is the secret of the experts and the fast track to building our knowledge of just about anything.
When I seal my lips and cross my arms, I delay my own growth. But when I proudly occupy the space of a beginner, I attract high-caliber, generous mentors and call on the voices of those who also aren’t afraid to wonder and seek out new terrain.
The specialists in any field obtained their status because they were spirited supporters of asking what we’ve come to call stupid questions.
Their success is a direct result of their unabashed ability to clear their throat, push down their pride, and in a loud voice look people in the eyes and utter words like:
I don’t understand.
Could you repeat that again, please.
I have a question.
For the most part, we aren’t well versed in asking questions. Instead, we’ve become masters at sharing our opinion and pretending like we know what we’re talking about.
There’s a deep-seated fear of being the new kid so we keep climbing up steep learning curves by our own feeble strength and skill.
We deceive ourselves into thinking the experts around us never asked for further explanations or directions. They did! The word question by its very nature alludes to a riveting quest.
If we place ourselves in the position of a permanent traveler, someone who has yet to arrive, one who’s willing to wind their way through life with intrigue and interdependency on others, I think we would be pleasantly surprised at the beautiful vistas we would reach.
Our questions are like lanterns, lighting the way forward into other worlds, don’t ever stop asking them aloud in front of everyone.
We need your stupid questions now more than ever.