I have observed in meetings (both individual and group settings), conferences, and even in social settings that people are hesitant to ask questions. I don’t know of anyone who is smart and who does not ask good questions. Asking questions is a sign of intelligence. As children, we are fearless and inquisitive. As we grow older and get busy with our professions, we tend to get a bit reticent. It is important to rebuild and cultivate the habit of asking questions.
“If you can’t explain something simply, you haven’t understood it well.” — Albert Einstein
Asking questions is a corollary to explaining things simply. For one to ask a question, one has to have understood whatever was being explained. There is no such thing as a stupid question. So long as you are asking a question to truly expand your understanding, you are good to go. You may be a bit vulnerable when asking a question, but don’t worry, everyone else is as well.
In addition to understanding the topic well, asking questions also has the positive side effect of building your brand, establishing rapport both with the person at whom you’re directing the question, but also with the audience. Some might even show their appreciation for asking the question, for they might be having the question too, but didn’t have the courage or the opportunity to ask it.
Here are a few simple techniques I have learned that have helped me over the years:
- Pay full attention to the topic at hand and be curious. Ideally, make notes if is in a formal setting. Your brain will start assimilating information and trying to make sense of it. A few pieces might stand out.
- Ask open-ended questions as opposed to binary (yes/no) type questions. These are questions that are more along the lines of ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions.
- Learn to ignore the crowd — pretend you are in a one-on-one setting with the person you have the question for.
- Be vulnerable. Asking more questions will get you better at asking questions.
Questions will help you learn better and ultimately think more clearly. Start by asking a question in a meeting or a setting that you wouldn’t normally ask a question in. You’ll be glad you did!
The story first appeared on LinkedIN.