“There are no dumb questions.” Oh, that is so not true! Who is to decide? If I’m asked a question when speaking, I’m eager to answer anything. What I may know, I may not have made clear. The questioner may not have been listening. I don’t consider a fundamental question asked of me a dumb question at all.
However, what happens when I believe my question is dumb? Most likely I keep it to myself; and regardless of its value, it is never answered.
Being at Harvard working on my Masters can be intimidating. At the Extension School, one of the accredited schools of Harvard, most of my classes are online, with other experienced, mature, i.e., older, students. Their wealth of experience and knowledge is formidable and accessible. They are generous in sharing their perspectives and fact-based in their knowledge. Most classes are attended virtually with on-campus students. Regardless, we’re connected to the facility and teaching fellows.
It’s finals week. Our final paper is due on Sunday. We were given a prompt, and the answer can be no longer than 15 pages plus references. There were three separate prompts given. I began my paper last Saturday and wrote EIGHT pages to answer the first prompt. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “how can I get three topics well covered in 15 pages?” It’s been tough this week, and this morning our teaching fellow popped up with open time to ask questions. I hesitated to ask this dumb question because I figured the answer would be, “Suck it up buttercup! Figure it out.” (Said in a much more academic tone and phrasing.) I proceeded to ask my dumb question: “I’m struggling to cover all three topics in 15 pages. Can you give me some ideas on how to do that?” The TF said, “You only have to answer one of them.” I told him he didn’t say that; he said he did, looked online and said, “You’re right! I didn’t state that!” He immediately sent a note out to all 60 of us online around the world.
My question wasn’t dumb. It saved me a ton of work and not asking the question could have possibly cost me the best grade I can get in this class. It turns out when you think a question is dumb, and you choose to ask it, you’re brave, and your ego has to sit down while you find out if you’re going to take a verbal beating or get a virtual hug. The TF was so thankful I’d asked! He said he’d received a couple of emails from other students who’d asked obtuse questions and never the direct one.
A question is only dumb if you deem it so. I believe all questions are important. There’s wisdom in asking, and wisdom in not judging the question but providing the answer.
What questions are you not asking to get answered? Run them by me; I’ll help you see the wisdom of asking any question to anyone. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea. Thanks,