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Why to ask questions

31 January 2014


Just some months ago I started at Stora Enso on my first real job. As any new employee, I needed to learn and I wanted to do it as fast as possible. So, I asked questions. Many questions. Really many questions! At one point, I even started wondering if I was too intrusive and it’d be better to sit quietly and hope that understanding will come itself one day.​


One small occurrence cleared up my doubts. One day a colleague of mine said after working with an external consultant: “There is something wrong with this guy. I am worried about him: he has already worked for us for 2 days but he hasn’t asked even one question!”


For some reason, when we were children, we were not afraid of asking questions. In fact, we were asking great lots of them. As research showed, a typical child can ask 200 questions a day. That’s the way children learn about the world.


When people grow up, they begin to associate asking questions with lack of knowledge. This is especially true in such cultures as Finnish, where people prefer to keep their distance.

But why should we actually ask questions? I found 4 reasons for it:

  1. To learn. In schools and universities we learn by asking question when something puzzles us. And so we do in a new work place.
  2. To impress. Often by asking a smart question, you can make a good impression and thus build a reputation of a smart person.
  3. To connect. When asking other people questions instead of talking yourself, you can find common interests and establish relationships.
  4. To bring change. By asking the question “why”, it is possible to find practices that are not optimal, and, thus, establish grounds for positive change.

Asking questions is important in many ways. It can be beneficial in studies, in career and in personal relationships. Besides, as the famous proverb says: “There are no stupid questions. Only stupid answers”.