The Importance of Asking Questions
“There is no such thing as a stupid question.”
You’ve probably heard this phrase before from a teacher, parent, or employer. In reality, while this saying is very true, there is still a stigma around asking questions that makes people fear if they ask a question, they’ll be seen as inadequate or a nuisance. Perhaps the fear stems from an early childhood experience, from our own self-doubt, or the perceived judgment that will come our way. The simple truth is, there is nothing wrong with asking questions. In fact, we should work toward encouraging and empowering our employees to ask questions. Because a question left unasked can do more harm than good when trying to run a successful business.
The importance of asking questions begins in childhood. If you’ve recently been around a two-year-old, you might have noticed they ask “What’s that?” in addition to other questions, a lot. That’s because asking questions is how we learn. Then, when we’re old enough to go to school, we ask questions to learn more about the subjects we’re being taught in school. At a new job, we ask our employers questions during training to understand the job and its responsibilities. In general life, we ask questions about the topics we’re curious about. Yet there often comes a point when a lot of people stop asking questions.
Why do we stop asking questions?
One reason people stop asking questions is that they’re okay with knowing the bare minimum. If they feel they have enough information to get a job done in a “passable” way, they might not feel the need to inquire further.
Another reason is that some people get so caught up in their workload, they think that stopping to ask questions will only slow them down. In situations like these, the belief that rushing into a project to get it done only results in slowing them down in the long run because they are more likely to make mistakes and have to backtrack. Whereas if they had just asked the questions in the beginning, they could’ve avoided those mistakes.
One of the bigger reasons is the one mentioned earlier. Fear. People who want to appear strong, adequate, and knowledgeable might not ask questions out of fear they will appear weak, or as the phrase suggests, “stupid.” However, asking questions is a sign of strength. Many great thinkers and leaders know from experience that they do not have all the answers and there is always more to learn.
So how can you empower your employees and colleagues to ask questions?
A key to leadership in many aspects of a job is to lead by example, and this topic is no exception. A leader who operates on answers rather than questions is setting an example to their employees that it’s better to know the answers than to ask questions. It also shows your employees you are open to learning. By opening up to your employees through asking questions, you’re setting the precedent that it’s okay and even encouraged to ask for clarification.
Helping your employees understand the repercussions of not asking questions is another beneficial way to encourage them to do so. It’s important to not only encourage open question asking but inform them why it’s important to begin with. We’ve all been here: You assign a project to an employee and give them a rundown of the tasks at hand. No questions asked. Then, when the completed assignment comes back to us, it’s not what we need.
Clear communication is about more than simply explaining the task, it’s about how the other person perceives the information. If everyone understands the importance of getting clarification of deliverables and expectations in the beginning, it can save everyone time and energy. With practice, they will feel more inclined to ask necessary questions.
The growth and success of a company depend on the sharing of questions and answers being a two-way street. Instead of leading by telling your employees all the answers, start asking your employees questions. Show them from the beginning that it’s okay to ask for clarification. Let them know through your actions that there really is no such thing as a stupid question.
Nicole Pellegrini is a blogger, designer and content marketer originally from New York and currently based in Los Angeles, CA. She is the creator of the professional lifestyle blog, Candy Revolver. Her favorite topics to write about are personal development, self-care and making a career out of your passion