While in high school, I found that asking questions helped me better understand what was being taught. It also helped bring clarity and understanding to the rest of the class as well.
I remember in one math class, the teacher would call me by my last name. And she would often wave her hand downward when I asked her a question and say, “Albert, down, down.”
My buddies in the class would laugh and kid me about the teacher’s behavior.
At the end of one grading period, she totally shocked me by giving me a “C” in conduct. It was the only “C” that I received in high school. Almost every other grade that I earned in high school was an “A”. So, I went in to ask my teacher about my disappointing grade.
Her explanation of the “C” was more shocking than the actual grade. She said that she gave me a “C” because I asked too many questions. WOW!
Since those days, I have learned that good communication between people in a family, with friends, and at work is rooted in mutual understanding and is fundamental to anyone’s success.
If asking questions is so powerful and important, why don’t people ask questions more often to avoid any misunderstanding?
Every person can avoid misunderstanding (and ask better questions) by being aware of the top four reasons people don’t ask questions.
Insight: “Pride” is the root cause in most cases as to why people do not ask questions. And “pride” is what will keep you there and continue to experience misunderstanding.
In what ways does our “pride” hold us back from enhancing mutual understanding?
You want control
You would rather talk than ask questions and listen because…
- You would be in control with your own agenda?
- You want to be the center of attention?
Leaders in an attempt to be good communicators think the solutions are…
- Talk to employees more often.
- Send more messages.
- Give their people more information.
NO! Don’t just tell. Ask questions and listen as well.
Insight: Almost any monologue can be improved by making it a dialogue.
You think it will take too much time
Can you recall instances when you have not asked questions because you were concerned about it taking too much of your time or an important person’s time?
Did you incur misunderstanding that could have been avoided by asking questions?
You fear being seen as stupid
Have you ever needed clarification on a topic, but decided to not ask a question because you thought you might be seen as stupid?
Asking questions would have been a simple matter of good sense, so why should it be considered stupid or insulting?
When you did not speak up, did you experience misunderstanding because you did not ask questions for clarification?
“Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions. They’re easier to handle than dumb mistakes!” – Jim Lundy
You’re worried about insulting the listener
Hopefully, a good listener would voluntarily repeat the essence of the speaker’s message without being asked to do so.
However, a good speaker should ask the listener to provide feedback by asking questions or to demonstrate in some way that the message has been understood.
Consider the tradeoffs, such as the potential problems, which can arise from misunderstandings and the subsequent confusion and well-founded embarrassment they may cause.
John Maxwell shared from My Humility Journey that people…
“…are not willing to be wrong so they can discover what is right! Therefore, they cling to ‘right’ and their lives turn out wrong. How sad…surrender of being right enables us to ask questions that others can answer and add value to our lives. Surrender of being right is a prerequisite to finding right.”
Wow! Now that’s a paradox for you. If we truly want to find what’s right, we have to stop thinking that we are right! When we reject the tendency to always be right, we become free to ask more questions. And asking questions leads us to the truth.
Personal Growth Challenge: Will you intentionally ask three questions today in order to clarify or affirm your level of understanding?
What has been your experience when you did not ask questions when you should have? Please share your thoughts <here> and share this blog post with family or friends.