The Legend of the Stupid Question

I made an important discovery today, but take care before you read it because it might rock your world. Be sure to cover the eyes and ears of any school-age bystanders. Ready? Here it is: There are stupid questions. There. I said it. Everybody knows the obnoxious guy on the conference call.

I understand why my mother and my 1st grade teacher told me stupid questions don't exist. They wanted to encourage my inquisitiveness and creativity. Sorry, Ma, not everyone who asks a question wants to learn something.

To be fair, a question in and of itself can't be wrong or inane--usually. (I am of the opinion, however, that one should always Google one's question before posing it to anyone. See www.lmgtfy.com for details). The context surrounding any question determines its level of stupidity. For example, a question about someone's genealogy, while interesting and timely at a family gathering, is irrelevant and inappropriate during a business meeting.

Context is everything. That includes the people involved, too. With millions of digital interactions going on every day, chances are you'll run across someone who hasn't the foggiest idea what you're talking about. They might ask you a question. It might be dumb. Answer it anyway.

Mark Olson's blog today examined the relationship of authority and authenticity. If you have authority, people will probably ask you questions. Authenticity shines through when you answer with civility, even kindness, regardless of the quality of the question. So if you know the answer, speak. If you do not, shut up and listen to someone who does. The ability to discern whether to speak or listen is a clear indicator of your character. Having the grace to speak with respect at all times is an even clearer one.

To those toward whom the above rant was directed. Do not under any circumstances ask things just to hear yourself talk. Self-service serves no one, least of all you. Social media is incisive in this regard. It will weed out those hungry for attention and acknowledgment of any sort from the sincerely ignorant. So please, do us all a favor. Don't be the conference call guy.

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