You’ve probably heard the expression, “There are no stupid questions.” Sure, there are questions that have already been answered, and that, if you ask, you may be called out for not paying attention. Still, it’s OK to ask, because it’s better to have all the information you need before you plow ahead.
When you are full of questions, it’s a signal that you are aware that you don’t know everything, that you recognize that there is always more to learn. When you ask questions, you show interest in the world around you, and you rarely, if ever, have a problem with boredom. Asking questions means that you value other people’s experience, insights and opinions. It means that you are amenable to change and growth.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with having answers, but when people behave as if they have the answer to every question, it shows that they have stopped learning anything new. Think “Archie Bunker,” the character in the American TV comedy show, All in the Family. Archie is ignorant and bigoted, afraid of change and of people who are different. He has an answer for everything, and he is confidant that his answer is the right one.
Most of us are somewhere in the middle between two extremes, with neither too many questions or too many answers. There are certain areas of life where we are so clueless that we don’t even know what questions to ask. There are other areas where we would rather not ask questions, for fear of upsetting the status quo. Sometimes our questions have more to do with self-doubt than with interest in the topic; we are afraid to claim the answer for fear of being wrong. Sometimes our answers have more to do with controlling other people than with choosing for ourselves.
As we grow older, our life experience begins to provide us with more answers than questions, and we have to remind ourselves from time to time to learn new things. We are also brought up short, occasionally, by the fact that others have arrived at, or are still seeking, different answers, and that they are not interested in our answers. It gets harder and harder for us to listen to others’ answers, because we have our own.
If you think you might be running out of questions, try this exercise: Write down at least ten questions that you would like to find an answer for, and review your list occasionally. Keep your questions lightly in mind as you go though your day, and make an effort, when possible, to find the answers. It may mean picking up and book that you would not normally have read, or talking to someone you would not normally have conversed with. It may mean learning how to do research on the internet or at the library. When you have answered a question, at least tentatively, then replace it with another question. You may later find more information on a topic that adds to or changes your original “answer.” Keep in mind that there may not be only one answer to your question. 🙂