The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask

question markThere are a lot of people that go through life with their mouths closed, afraid that if they ask a question they will be seen as uninformed or just plain stupid.  So they hope that someone else will ask the question they really wanted to ask, or that the information they want will magically appear.

While there are a few exceptions to the “The only stupid question …” rule, I am a firm believer in asking questions.  In an interview with Mark Miller, John Maxwell gave three great reasons why we should ask questions:

  • You only get answers to the questions you ask. Can you think of a meeting you participated in but left not having your questions answered? Was it because you didn’t ask them? What question(s) do you need to ask this week?
  • Questions unlock and open doors that otherwise remain closed.Have you ever asked for something and been shocked when your request was granted? I had a meal with Edward de Bono, the world’s leading authority on creative thinking, because I approached him after he spoke at a conference and invited him out to lunch. He told me that someone had recently paid $25,000 to have a meal with him – all it cost me was a question and a pastrami sandwich!
  • Questions are the best way to connect with people. When we express our interest in others by asking questions of them, we are sending strong signals they matter. We can also learn much more about their interests, passions, hopes and concerns when we’re listening rather than talking. People love it when their leaders are good listeners. Questions can help.

In fact, John Maxwell provided a list of seven questions that he has used to get him where he is today:

  1. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
  2. What are you learning now?
  3. How has failure shaped your life?
  4. Who do you know that I should know?
  5. What have you read that I should read?
  6. What have you done that I should do?
  7. How can I add value to you?

So — the next time you want to know something, don’t wait for someone else to ask the question: ask it yourself and see what happens!

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