Friday, March 13

Who? What? When? Where? Why??

Questions are an essential part of learning things about life.  If no one ever asked questions, no one would ever pursue answering them, and there is a possibility we would still live in a world with no wheels, no electricity, or even no cell phones!! All great things started with a quizzical thought that provoked a person to find out an answer.  March 14th is National Ask a Question Day, a day to find the answers to your most urgent questions.  People ask questions for many reasons, and here are the top 12:

? To gather information
? To learn and teach
? To think clearly, critically, and strategically
? To challenge assumptions
? To clarify and confirm listening
? To stimulate productive conversation
? To build and maintain relationships
? To reflect and build awareness
? To solve problems and make decisions
? To set and accomplish goals
? To negotiate and resolve conflicts
? To create and innovate new possibilities

I would say the most common reason is to gather information.  These kinds of questions are asked every day in the classroom and in the business world.  These questions lead to the questions that help us learn, teach, and develop critical thinking skills.  In almost every class that I have been in, the teacher tells his students "there is no such thing as a stupid question."  This statement lets people know that all questions are appreciated and encouraged because it is very likely that someone will have the same question as you.  Teachers want their students to ask them questions because they will never know if they are getting the material across in an effective way if no one is responding to them.

I'm sure many of us have learned the hard way that if we don't ask questions, the teacher may decide to call on a random person to answer a question of his choosing.  In these scenarios, teachers have an uncanny way of sensing the least prepared person to answer their question.  This person may be sleeping, texting in class, or just full on spacing out, but when they are called on they have no idea what to do.  There is usually a deer in the headlights look, a few moments where they are wondering "what do I do??", and then they will finally ask, can you repeat the question? It has happened to all of us.

The next most common questions asked in everyday life would have to be the ones that challenge assumptions.  I remember clearly, when I was little, asking "why?" about 50 times a day.  When I learned that word, it unlocked a world of learning new things.  Every time I asked it, I got answers to things I had no knowledge of before.  It was amazing!  The downside to asking why so much, was when you hit a road block.  Your parents got tired of answering all of those questions, so they would cut you off with the infamous "Because I said so" or even just "Because".  That was the worst.

Questions can also help stimulate productive conversations that help people build relationships with others.  Imagine meeting a person for the first time and neither of you ever asking a question.  It would be very awkward and unnatural.  Both of you would be standing there, waiting for the other to say something about themselves that may provoke a thought for you to share.  Thankfully, humans are a curious species and we ponder things constantly.  There are the essential 'getting to know you' questions one asks like, "what is your major?" or "where are you from?".  But once people get to know each other better, they can get into some deep discussions from just one thought provoking question.  

In honor of this perplexing day, take the time to find answers to all of the questions that pop into your head tomorrow.  Look up words you don't know in the dictionary, ask someone you see how they are doing and really mean it, or type some questions into Google or Cha-cha for the heck of it.  Your brain has an endless capacity for use it!

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