Good afternoon people of the interweb.
Today, I have a question for you.
How do you feel about asking questions?
Are you first with your hand metaphorically up in life’s classroom, waggling for acknowledgement, or are you slumped in your seat, not sure you’re understanding what’s going on, but determined not to ask a “dumb” question?
Have you thought about what’s behind your questioning style? That’s my invitation to you today.
When I said I had a question for you (singular), I actually meant I have many, many questions.
I like questions. They help me clarify my thinking and learn things.
Here’s a bunch of questions, about questions, for your consideration:
Do you feel hesitant or confident about needing to ask a question?
Do your questions matter?
Does it make you feel vulnerable to ask questions? (If you’re a femal reader, do you think men with questions feel any vulnerability?)
If you do feel hesitant about asking questions, can you pin that down to anything specific?
Did some fool (#sorrynotsorry) along the way in life hush you and tell you your questions don’t matter? Or that they’re annoying or unnecessary?
Are you sick of my questions yet?
I’m a big believer in the power of questions, and of questioning things. “Just because” has never satisfied me as an answer. Ever. Never will.
Something I’ve noticed (again) lately is how apologetic women sometimes seem around asking questions.
“Sorry, I know it’s a dumb question but….”
“Sorry to ask but…”
“I know I should know this already, but…”
“Can I just ask, sorry, I was just wondering…”
That makes me ponder this question: have you ever heard a man begin a question with an apology, or a sense of feeling like he’s intruding or taking up someone else’s space?
Not likely, right?
Hmmmm, let’s just let that marinate for a minute.
Men with questions. Women with questions.
Both totally legit, right?
While I was checking my Facebook feed today, I saw that several people had posted photos of an American newspaper’s front page which had a banner headline about Hillary Clinton making history as the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. Whatever your political views are, that’s big news.
The accompanying front page photo was of her husband, Bill Clinton.
I have questions about that.
Questions are crucial to my sense of self. I only know myself as well as I do because of the questions I’ve asked, and had to answer.
Questioning isn’t always easy, I have been shooshed many, many, many times in my life.
The messages I received along the way, implicitly and explicitly, told me that grown-ups’ voices were more important, that men’s voices were more important, that my questions were annoying and somehow were evidence of a character flaw. Good girls don’t interrupt or ask questions.
I even fell into the trap of shooshing myself. How insidious is that?
Gradually, very gradually, I decided to allow myself to question. The pep talks I had to give myself around those questions were often tearful. What a terrible and tragic thing that is, to even deny yourself the right to ask a silent, internal question.
Questions can be straightforward and simple, or they can be potentially seismic in their impact. Questions can stump you, shake you and free you. Questions don’t always have readily available answers. Sometimes they do.
A few paragraphs ago, I said that questions are crucial to my sense of self. I’d go so far as to say that questions are crucial to yours too, whether you’re a hand waggler or a seat slumper.
My parting question for your consideration today is this, would you consider questioning your approach to questions?
Oh, and just one more thing before I sign off, my last question for now, I promise.
Do you believe that your voice, and your questions matter?
It does. They do.
18 thoughts on “Question Time”
All questions matter. I ask questions like a toddler. I think that’s why I like studying in the social sciences so much – you’re encouraged to ask the questions about what is the norm. And I ask questions that people assume are joke or rhetorical. But no, it’s an actual question.
Question it all!!
Questions are the best! I love it when people ask me questions 🙂
Me too. And when you get to watch someone question, then come to know and voice their own answer… THAT is the best thing ever. Ever!!
I always love your thoughts (and questions!) that cut right to the crux of things Annette. I would say I am happy to ask questions but there was a time in my life (and I sometimes still get this) where if I ‘raise my hand’ in a public forum – meeting, conference, public audience place, I feel myself blush and then I feel self-conscious, but not sure if that is about the question-asking per se or a weird social awkwardness about not wanting to draw attention to myself? I also find myself guilty of apologising before or while asking a question. The statement about would a man do that…well, as I said already, you always cut to the crux of things and I won’t be apologising anymore!
Yeah Rebecca, raise your hand! The fellas have been at the mic long enough don’t you reckon? 🙋🏼
Thank you for your encouraging words, they mean so much to me.
As a mature student returning to study I use to blanch at asking questions, put my hand up and apologise, and timidly ask away, they say there are no stupid questions, I had that on my side.
As I’ve progressed and developed a hunger to learn more than what is in my syllabus, I’ve had to become bolder and less apologetic in class. If you want to know, you have to be bold and make no apologies. Our class has dropped from 30 to 8, we’re still there because we ask questions and not give up even if we don’t like the answers.
You’re right of course in regard to the inequity of who seemingly should apologise for being bold. Language is so powerful, I always catching myself writing, or speaking, I think, or maybe, or should. I’ve changed this to just leave that part out and to stop being timid. Be bold I say, our voices are all equal, our minds are brilliant, we have something of great value to contribute.
Sue, this is so great to read! Boldness comes with age I reckon, here’s to continuing to ask questions!!
I’ve always been the first to raise my hand with a question, whenever something is unclear. I suspect it was a primary school teacher who encouraged this “The best way to learn is to ask a question” or something like that. I still believe that completely.
Even professionally, I will ask a consultant to rephrase something they say, to help me understand it better. I don’t think I have ever had a negative response to a question (in my adult years anyway).
Questions are crucial to understanding myself as well. I can get to the core of an issue by asking simple questions, or more often by having friends ask me questions about how I feel.
And a good way to keep any conversation going, is to ask the other person a question about something they mentioned.
Questions really matter don’t they Peter?
It’s a privilege to have always have your questions heard and honoured, here’s to all of us having that experience!
Fantastic and thought provoking post, Annette. I used to be shy, apologetic and hesitant when asking questions, but not since I got older. One of my daughters is crippled by shyness and has a serious problem asking questions at school. I’m going to have her read this post. I think it will help her.
Therese, that is the best compliment you could give me. I hope your daughter knows that she has as much right as anybody else to hold her head up and ask her questions.
Great questions, Annette! I am a big questioner, but I do tend to undermine my questions with lots of prefacing, etc. You’ve given me something to think about – thanks
It’s an easy habit to pick up, but it’s a bit of a bad one – ask those questions with confidence Helen, that’s so important, for you and to model to your kids.
I’m a questioner. Over time I’ve become better at questioning out loud. I’m also a wonderer… which is more, for me, about questioning without needing an answer, just letting the wondering hang there for another time. Sometimes answers take time to make landfall in the human brain. Lots of time and experience and perspective.
I would love it if we all felt our questions were valid.
You’ve made me think about my children’s questions (which outnumber the stars). Sometimes, I worry about the shallow expectations of asking questions. They seek fast and easy answers rather than searching for information or thinking about what they already know/think/feel/believe. From a learning longevity perspective, being told something is no substitute for discovering it. Constructing understanding is a process that I think is undervalued by the ‘fast-food’ nature of our information culture. I’d rather not be asked questions constantly as though I am a search engine. So I often reflect their questions back at them. They hate it (!) but one day they might thank me. I guess I am just thinking about all sides of questioning.
There is no doubt in my mind that questioning, wondering, hypothesizing, imagining… all of these things are crucial. As long as they are about independent thinking, not dependent thinking.
Keep those wonderings and questions rolling Rach!
Oh I have a lot to say about this! (And thanks for your great blog posts which I always enjoy). At any event, lecture, community meeting etc. I always have lots of questions. When the presenter says “Does anyone have any questions?” I always hesitate to see if others have questions. Why do I hesitate? Cause I know I have so many and want to give others the chance to ask first. Inevitably there are either 1 – maybe 2 – questions, or none. I then put my hand up and ask my first question. Then when the presenter says “Are there any more questions?” I wait again. Then put my hand up again. This is ALWAYS met with surprise. “Oh… you have another question?” I usually have loads more questions than I ask. Presenters I find are never ready for the questioning member of the audience. I often feel the ‘vibe’ to just shut up and don’t ask more questions. I must stress I am not one of those people who use questions time to launch into their own lecture (the ones where the presenter asks “Do you actually have a question?”) No, never! I am just curious, have an arty/intellectual brain, see things from a non-traditional perspective. But I do find this seems to throw people off guard
I love that you’re curious and questioning. I think they are essential qualities for being a great human.
Thank you so much for reading the blog, and joining the conversation.
Question on. Repeatedly!!