26 May 2012

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

Albert Einstein

In the middle of a conversation with some friends the other day, I asked a pretty simple question. Something I should already have known the answer to. My friends teased me a bit for asking such a stupid question, then answered it for me.

The end result of my stupid question? I learned something new.

I know way too many people who don't ask a question if they feel the question might make them seem ignorant. This is a bad strategy for a number of reasons.

First, if you go through life not asking questions because you are afraid of seeming ignorant, this will be the direct cause of your ignorance. They way knowledgeable people become knowledgeable is by asking questions when they don't understand something.

Next, as a general rule, asking questions makes you seem smarter. Even dumb questions. Sometimes, especially dumb questions. It's a signal to the other people in the conversation that you are willing to risk social ridicule to better understand something, which is the sign of a truly smart person.

I've asked "stupid" questions in big meetings, job interviews, and lots of other situations where people traditionally might not ask a question that could make them seem stupid. It's never been a bad thing.

In many ways, asking a question is an extension of saying "I don't know," which is a very strong thing to say.

So, go by the motto that there are no dumb questions. When you're not sure about something, ask.