I have no fear of asking “stupid questions.” In fact, I’m that guy who leads with, “This may be a stupid question, but…”
If I do not understand something or if I look around a room after something is said and see this…
…and no one else, especially the speaker, feels compelled to confirm understanding, I just do it.
Or if I just don’t get what was said and the rest of the room is like this…
…I have to assume I’m in a room full of geniuses and need to be enlightened. Learner is one of my strengths in life, so I embrace it whenever I can.
Or if neither of those things occur, yet nothing is said to indicate understanding, I am more than happy to go ahead and ask the stupid, obvious questions just to make sure everyone’s singing from the same song book.
(I’m, also, that guy who will frequently ask, “Does that make sense?” as I answer questions, present or just run a meeting. I feel like I do this so often it’s a tic, and I sometimes worry people might think I’m being patronizing. I promise I’m not.)
Why do I do this? Is it the left over vestiges of the youngest of four siblings being a pain in the butt and asking “Why?” over and over just to be annoying? Could it be I am never anywhere near the smartest person in the room and just need that much help (to be sure, I never assume I’m the smartest person in any room – we can all learn from what’s happening around us at any point in time, even if we are the teacher or facilitator in the room)?
What I have learned, often painfully, over the years is the chance of a direct, linear, immediate connection between…
1. What Person A says
2. What Person A means
3. What Persons B-X hear
4. What Persons B-X understand
5. What Persons B-X do
6. What Person A expected to be done
…is not as common as we hope.
It tends to play out like this…
While CONFIRMING understanding goes something like this…