WORK-LIFE BALANCE / AUG. 13, 2014
version 2, draft 2

Teachers Are Right, There Are No Stupid Questions

Early on in life we are told there is no such thing as a stupid question. As true as we may think this is, we are often afraid to ask those questions for fear that we should already know the answer. This isn’t just an issue of knowing that you can ask questions, but more importantly, knowing how to seek clarity and direction when it is needed.

Quotes Are Great, Learn From Them

Bruce Lee, a great teacher in his own right, once said, “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”  Deep stuff, I know. This starts us on a rabbit hole of understanding communication, specifically clarification, in life or at work. We all communicate in unique ways and with so much communication going through email or IMs it is rare that our inflections are ever carried over.

For example, if you email your boss something that seems very innocent and genuine, it may be taken as an insult or questioning authority. Maybe you email them, “I’m confused about why you chose to make that particular decision in regards to this situation. I was under the impression that we are going a different way.” See how that sounds almost insulting and insubordinate? That is the issue with language in general. Inflection is key to ensuring that our meaning is taken correctly.

Now, using the same example, if you were speaking in person the conversation would go much differently. You would use more of your natural way of speaking, a friendly and concerned tone, but not one that is dry and accusatory. That is essentially the problem with text communication, it seems dry, has no emotion and is read in the tone the reader feels it was meant to be read, regardless of your intentions.

Clarification is Key

Never stop questioning. Always ask questions and ensure that you are 100% clear as to what the particular individual you are talking with is explaining. If they tell you that they want things to be done in a certain way, and you run off to handle those projects in that way, based on your understanding you could find yourself redoing everything again.

Spending the time to have it explained to you like you are a five year old may make you feel dumb. That isn’t the case. That is respectable. Tell your boss or manager that you want to understand the communication completely. Ask the “stupid” questions because that will show your supervisor that you are more concerned about doing the job right than anything else.

Another key aspect to constantly asking questions is that it will make others think. If your team is implementing a new initiative and you continue to ask how things will work and push on certain subjects for more clarification, it may reveal holes in the strategy. Doing this shows initiative. You, no matter what role you hold, are showing your team that you are constantly thinking about the plans for the organization. In essence, the only stupid question is the one that is never asked.

Image Via: Business24

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