Ask Away

Recently I found myself surrounded by a large group of people in an unfamiliar workplace. They were discussing policies and procedures way beyond my understanding. The more they talked, the more lost I got in their conversation.  I wondered what exactly a “widget” was and how that “widget” worked with other “widgets”.  My head spun in circles speculating what was happening. In a moment of sheer terror the man leading the discussion looked at me and boomed, “Do you know what we’re talking about?”


That split second, moment in time is a place we have all found ourselves. The secret to success in that situation is to inquire about what you feel is the dumbest question in your mind. The question concealed in your psyche is the question that sparks understanding if communicated.

When I first started in ministry many pastors and professors used so many enormous, theological (speaking of big words) statements. I had no clue what their words meant which lead to further confusion about principles and theologies. I often when home frustrated due to my fear of asking the dumb questions.

Instead of carrying around a dictionary and “googling” everything people discussed, I started kindly asking individuals to elaborate on what they were discussing. When words, principles, and practices surfaced, I simply asked for clarity.  To my surprise, almost every dumb question in my mind that was communicated was received with a “good question” response. The individuals I asked appreciated my open, honest approach. They could see I truly wanted to learn the material at hand and about them as people. Breaking the verbal fear of asking proved valuable time and time again.

Micheal Andrew, a consultant and author, gives six tips for asking good questions. These principles are a good start when one wants to overcome the internal fear of asking something “dumb”. My personal thoughts are in parenthesis.

  1. Tie a question back to the purpose, goal, or objective. (Think… “What do I want to learn here that I don’t know?”)
  2. Ask a question that takes a concept down to a practical or pragmatic level. (This is asking in simple form without using many words. Get to the point!)
  3. Listen actively.
  4. Insightful questions often begin with “What if.”
  5. What is the “So what” (implications) and/or the “Now What?” (What are you going to do with what someone is giving you?)
  6. Generate questions by staying ahead by doing your homework/preparation. (Always come as prepared as possible to every and all situations.)

Ask, and it will be given to you… he who seeks finds.” Matthew 7:7-8



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