A few months ago, I read “The Surprising Power of Questions” in the Harvard Business Review. It resonated with me quite a bit. I was most interested in the idea that simply asking more questions can help you learn more and bond with others. For example, one study found that “I wish they had asked more questions” was the most common negative feedback after initial meetings.
As a relatively new employee at Atomic, I try to ask a lot of questions. While it can be hard to speak up sometimes, there is a large benefit to asking questions. When I look back, I realize that the only obstacle that kept me from asking more questions was a fear that something “bad” would happen.
The article I mentioned points out several common fears. I won’t bore you with my own, but my fear was definitely the root cause for my silence and hesitancy to ask questions.
To convince myself to ask more questions, I decided to collect some data. For 60 days, every time I asked a question, I asked myself, “Am I glad I asked that question?”
I Was Glad I Asked Nearly Every Question
Throughout these two months, there were very few questions that I regretted asking. Visualizing the results of my questions helped squash my fear.
I realized that nearly every time I asked a question, I was happy that I did. I not only learned a lot, but I also felt more engaged in my learning. Much of the fear I had about asking the right questions was pushed aside.
It’s one thing to read about the value of asking questions, or even about someone’s similar experience. It’s quite another thing to see the graph results of my own experience.
I Learned to Ask More Questions
Throughout this process, I realized that the number of questions I was asking increased. I have a couple of theories about why this may be. Much of this increase may have been due to the realization that I wouldn’t regret asking questions. Alternatively, I may have gotten better at remembering to record when I asked a question.
Another possible explanation is that I was growing more comfortable with the people on my team. I started this observation about a month after joining Atomic, when I was still getting to know my team and building relationships with them. Now that I’ve gotten to know them better, I feel more confident asking questions.
If you’re reading this and thinking about the questions you decided not to ask, I encourage you to try this exercise. I learned a lot about how to ask questions in a way that yields positive outcomes for myself, and I found myself asking more questions than before.
I’m optimistic that because of these findings, I will continue to challenge myself to ask more questions and find new ways to gain positive outcomes from the questions I ask.