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Asking Questions/Getting Answers

by Catie Gosselin

How many times have you stopped yourself from asking a question for fear it was a 'dumb'? Or, how many times have you prefaced a question with "This is probably a stupid question, but...". Where does this mindset come from?

The last time I checked none of us were omnicient, so it only stands that we learn by questioning. Why are we so afraid to let people know that we don't understand something or need help?

I don't think there is a single instance where we enter this mindset. Rather, I think it happens subtlely, over time.

I remember early in first grade my teacher instructing the class to write our full names. She offered to spell out names on the chalkboard. I had learned to write my first name already, so that part was no big deal. Never before had I needed to write my last name, so I asked for help. As clear as day, I remember her saying my name was easy, and I didn't need her to spell it. Strange, but if I didn't need help, I would not have asked. I got the distinct impression I had done something very wrong by asking at all.

I also remember that there were plenty of topics that were not okay to discuss at home. I'm not sure what would have happened had I pressed points that made no sense, but I learned to hold my tongue.

This really is a crazy-making, self-perpetuating cycle. Rather than ask a simple question, or admit we need assistance, we end up taking too much upon ourselves. We expect perfection, yet deny ourselves the resources. The more we need help, the more reluctant we become to seek it.

I remember how wonderful it felt at work one day, when I realized it took too much energy to figure it all out myself. It was so freeing to admit "I don't understand what you mean". The world didn't end, I didn't lose my job, and I was not condemned to wear a dunce cap for the day. If anything, I think my honesty was appreciated.

Admitting we don't understand something first requires honesty with ourselves. Next, it means refusing to hide behind a false face of perfection. It is a leap of faith that ends in finding the truth.

There really is no such thing as a stupid question.

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