Have you ever started a question with, “this may be a stupid question, but…”? I wonder what it is that makes someone think that something they are asking isn’t good enough? What makes a question a stupid one?
Today, in honor of National Ask a Stupid Question Day, I thought I would talk about ways that we can all encourage one another to continue to ask questions. Afterall, there really isn’t such a thing as a stupid question if its something that you’re curious about, right? How are we to learn all that we want to know if we don’t ask?
If there is really no such thing as a stupid question, then why has someone come up with a day to honor them? Well, the thought behind this ‘holiday’ is really one of encouragement. It’s meant to encourage kids to be inquisitive and ask away.
If there is no stigma placed on the asking, or if the kids don’t feel like they are stupid because they are asking a stupid question, maybe they will ask more. I mean think about it, we all learn through questions, right? How are we supposed to understand something we don’t if we don’t ask about it? The last thing that we want is for a child to feel stupid because of something they asked…or even worse, simply not ask at all for fear of sounding stupid.
So how can we set the stage for more questions to be asked without hesitation? Well, one of the first things we can do is try to inspire kids to ask more open-ended questions. Questions with a simple yes or no answer do nothing for inquisitive minds. Actually, sometimes they just result in more inquiries because the question that they really wanted to ask wasn’t answered with a simple one-word response.
Asking open-ended questions really involves using the words ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what if’. When you begin a question with one of these words/phrases, you elicit an answer that must include more than a simple 1-word response. Think about it…can you think of a question that beings with ‘how’ that you may be able to answer yes or no to? I certainly can’t.
The wonderful thing about questions is that they can happen anytime, anywhere. My youngest niece, who is now 14, will still open many conversations with “I have a question”. She is probably one of the most inquisitive people that I know, and I know this is what makes her so successful in life. She is never afraid to ask a question. And she’s never shied away from a situation because she didn’t want to ask the question.
Yes, there are situations where questions may not be the most appropriate. And there are some kids (and adults) who are constantly asking questions over and over again. So, what we need to do in those instances is redirect to a more appropriate time. “I’m sorry I can’t answer that right now, ask me again later”.
The ideal situation would be to set up a safe space where children feel like they can ask anything at any time. The last thing I would want to do is shoot someone down for asking something that I may think is insignificant. I always try to put myself into the questioner’s shoes. They must be asking this question for a reason…most likely to understand more.
Of course, the younger the child the more questions there are…and we can’t forget about those magical times where questions are used to avoid doing something. My niece is also a master at that one. Time to clean up? Not for my niece…that’s the perfect time for her to begin asking questions.
Remember, inquiries aren’t always about the answers. Sometimes, the questions themselves are the key. Questions allow for exploration into a topic that may not have been considered before. We’ve all been there…that situation where one topic is being discussed and suddenly, with the asking of a simple question a whole new discussion is occurring.
And that’s the beauty of questions. They can take us on amazing adventures and lead us down paths that we may not have otherwise thought about. Children’s minds are amazing. The things that pop into their head about how and why certain things occur the way they do can really make adults think in creative ways.
The who in this conversation is everyone. Everyone should be encouraged to ask questions without reservation, because there is no such thing as a stupid question. So, whomever you are, wherever you are, ask away. A world of creativity, adventure and understanding awaits those who aren’t afraid to ask! 😊