Smart Questions

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking that asking a lot of questions will make you appear stupid or uninformed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you feel this way, I get where you’re coming from. You’re presented with some new information and there are parts of it you don’t understand, but you feel like you should understand it. You get this sense that everyone else must absorb this instantly on the first go around, so if you don’t get it then there’s something wrong with you. So you clam up.

But from the point of view of the other person, nothing makes you look more foolish than not engaging at all. The reality is that everyone learns differently and so no single approach can perfectly teach everyone – so everyone should have questions. The person that doesn’t have questions just looks like they’re not engaged; like they don’t care enough to ask for clarification or they’re not thinking critically about what’s in front of them.

You signal intelligence and ambition with lots of questions, not with few.

One of the reasons that questions signal intelligence is because you can’t even ask questions without at least elementary critical thinking and basic knowledge of the topic. If you dropped me into an archaeological dig in Egypt and started telling me high-level stuff about the rock samples, I’d probably just nod along – not because I understood everything so fully that I didn’t need to ask questions, but because I’d be so lost I wouldn’t know what to ask. I don’t know the first thing about archaeology or Egyptology or any of that stuff. I’m not even sure I used those terms correctly.

So ask away! I promise you, no one has ever said, “Gee, that person sure had a ton of intelligent, challenging questions and engaged with us on the answers. What an idiot.”

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