There Is Such a Thing as a Dumb Question

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By Tiffany Miller, Account Supervisor, R&J Public Relations

Throughout my career, I’ve heard numerous people say, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.” I would like to disagree. There definitely is such a thing as a dumb question. In my experience, at the root of the dumb question is laziness. Too many of us ask questions because we are too lazy to attempt to find the answers ourselves. Not only are we inconveniencing our co-workers, bosses and clients, but we’re doing a disservice to ourselves.

I won’t lie; I’ve fallen victim to asking dumb questions and I’m sure have infuriated bosses, colleagues, and clients in the process.  To avoid being a victim yourself, try these simple steps to asking smarter questions and improving your overall communication skills.

1.       Think before you ask: Most of us ask questions that we can easily find the answers to ourselves. It seems obvious but many of us fail to take simple steps to quickly research something online or look at past emails or documents for the answer. Do some legwork before you ask your question, and most likely, you’ll be able to find the answer on your own without becoming a burden to others.

2.       Be proactive: If you’re asking a question as a way of finding a solution to a problem, don’t just ask, “What should I do?” Be proactive and develop solutions to your own problem prior to asking someone else. This provides an opportunity for you to potentially impress the person you are seeking advice from and also opens up a dialogue where both parties can discuss solutions.

3.       Consider who you are asking: Identifying the right person to ask is also critical. Most likely not all questions need to be run past your boss, and he / she doesn’t have time to answer all of them. Know who you need input from, and consider tips 1 and 2 before you engage.

4.       Use questions to look smarter: It’s true, asking questions can make you seem smarter and look like a star performer. Sometimes just asking someone to expand on their idea or give their opinion on a timely topic not only makes you appear more intelligent but shows that you are engaged and are listening.

Have a tip on how to ask smarter questions and improve your communication skills? Share it here.

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