Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I love the expression "there is no such thing as a stupid question, just stupid answers". When I first heard this I understood, because I apologised before asking a question to the same person after a sequence of three other questions. The expression presupposes that giving the correct answer should reduce the need to ask more questions, so if you give a full-detailed-bigger-picture answer, you will allow the questioner to connect the dots, and think for themselves........and then hopefully they'll ask more questions.

Asking questions are such a simple yet incredibly effective tool. In the family it encourages relationships "how are you doing?" shows you're concerned, in school and the workplace it increases knowledge "how do I do that?" shows that you're willing to be taught. And on the general front, you're building your repetoire of understanding of people and your environment.

But I wanted to deal specifically with the off-the-cuff moments when you're at a train station, and you're not sure which train to catch, your using the new machines where you check-out and pay for your own groceries at the supermarket or when the telephone bill is incorrect. If you don't know you need to ask somebody right?

I'm often saddened by young people who feel that they shouldn't or feel that they are not in a position to ask questions. I espcially identify with polynesian kids as we were brought up in a "seen but not heard" environment. I remember as a teen, being in situations with friends where we needed direction or guidance. And the most obvious person to ask was the person in uniform. I came to realise that I was always the one to make the enquiry. (I was the kid in class that people liked, because I'd be the one to ask the question that everyone was dying to ask but just didn't put their hand up, I didn't and still don't mind being seen as dumb). Out of curiosity I decided I was going to refuse and see how they would respond. Sure enough, they would rather go without knowing, than asking. This baffled me, but I'm still finding it in the next generation also. And even more so, it's not just polynesians after all, alot of people do this. Is there a whole generation of young 'uns who are being seen and not heard?

Where my buddies would thrive at probing the defence line in a rugby match, they were incredibly relucant to make an enquiry whether by phone, in writing or in person. My mind wondered, and I just had to ask those who were closest to me.

Here are some of the more common anwers:

• I may appear dumb better to appear dumb, than being dumb because you didn't ask
• Everyone else has probably asked the same question So?
• I don't know what to ask Take your time, work it out
• They're busy Wait in queue
• It's too embarrassing why? Because their job is to help you?
• They may say No who cares? You still win because an answer is better than not knowing

And I'm sure there are plenty more, BUT the fact remains, you will never know any of the above mysteries unless you ask the question! If they're wearing the uniform or they certainly stand-out as a person who's in on the know-how. Ask the question!

It's amazing how some of my friends (even family *ahem*) have expressed the anxiety they feel prior to making the enquiry. And I understand, please refer to my "Kings Speech" blog. But that anxiety can be reduced, and even nullified if you just ask the question when you first realise you're not sure what to do.

Our minds are constantly working and learning, and there are things we want to know. Google can give you an answer quick smart, but I think we get more anxious when talking with people. Google can never tell us what's going on in the mind of another. Asking questions will get you an answer, and sometimes it may not (if they choose not to answer). Not having the answer and persisting without knowing, can cause unnecessary anxiety. Like one of the lines of my favourite songs says "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery", and counsel from my favourite book "...keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." Luke 11:9 (NLT)