Are There Stupid Questions? (Part 2)

Students Holding Question Markes, What Kind of Future Could Have?

Have you ever asked a question that resulted in anger or frustration or impatience or eye-rolling or some other unwelcoming response?  

After I posted a blog called When It Comes to Asking Tough Questions, How Well Do You COPE?, I was asked what to do when people ask you stupid questions, so I wrote another piece called “Are There Stupid Questions?” providing some options for re-directing such questions.

Now I want to address this from the perspective of the asker.  If you’ve ever asked a question that was met with an unexpected negative reaction, you may have asked a “stupid” question—one that is asked A LOT (maybe even by you), or you’ve asked the wrong person, or you just didn’t think first.

Here’s a few things to think about before blurting out your question:

If you are asking for help or for information

  1. Has the person invited questions, either explicitly or implicitly? Give some thought to whether or not they will be receptive to your question.
  2. What have you done to answer the question for yourself? Google search?
  3. Have you spent any time thinking about the issue yourself, generating possible options, for example? People are a lot more receptive if you can demonstrate that you have not taken the easy way out.
  4. Are you sure this is the right person to ask? At a minimum, begin your inquiry by acknowledging that she may not be or by asking who is the right person.
  5. Is it the right time and place? What’s going on around the person or what’s about to happen? Will you be putting them on the spot in front of others?  Are they OK with that?  Are they about to start a meeting or event or just ending one?

If you are asking for mentoring, coaching or perspective

  1. Be respectful of the person’s time, attention and expertise. Don’t assume you are entitled to the help.
  2. Spend some time crafting your question so that it is thoughtful and truly honors the person’s unique point of view; however, don’t preface your question by over-doing the flattery.
  3. In a group setting, ask the question in a way that will benefit others who may have a similar question, instead of making it so specifically personal that it helps only you.
  4. Think about the image you want to project. Are you confident, upbeat and appreciative or are you trying to put the person on the defensive because of your own issues? What’s your energy like?

Learning to ask good questions – of yourself and others – is a skill worth cultivating.  Sometimes, just taking a moment to think about the question can make all the difference in the quality of the answers you get!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights on this topic.  Or your questions (there, I’m inviting you!).

#askingtoughquestions #askingquestions #stupidquestions #questions

4 thoughts on “Are There Stupid Questions? (Part 2)

  1. I think Item #5 is particularly relevant to how the question will be received, particularly if there are others engaged with your target. Take a moment to listen to what is being said – did someone else just answer or ask your question? – is your question coming from out of left field? Often times the question only seems “stupid” in the context of the ongoing meeting or conversation.

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