Asking the Right Questions is the Answer: 10 Things We Forget About Our Own Ignorance
Written by Marc Chernoff // 23 Comments
Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers. Because asking the right questions today is the answer.
It’s a harsh fact that every one of us is ignorant in some way. Although we tend to pretend otherwise, it’s impossible to know it all.
Ignorance is our biggest collective secret.
And it’s one of the scariest and most damaging realities of life, because those of us who are most ignorant — and thus most likely to spread ignorance — are often the ones who don’t know it.
Here’s a quick test:
If you have never changed your mind about one of your beliefs, if you have never questioned the fundamentals of your opinions, and if you have no inclination to do so, then you are likely ignorant about something you think you understand.
What’s the immediate solution?
Just move one step outside of your social bubble and find someone (online or offline) who, in your opinion, believes, behaves, or handles certain aspects of life differently from you. Then, have a simple, honest, peaceful conversation with them. I promise it will do both of you lots of good.
Once you’ve done that, here are some key truths to remind yourself of on a regular basis:
- Many of the biggest misunderstandings in life could be avoided if we would simply take the time to ask, “What else could this mean?”
- An expert is not a person who always has all the right answers — she’s the one who asks the right questions, consistently.
- Very few of us actively seek new knowledge in this world on a daily basis. We get comfortable with what we know and we stop questioning things. On the contrary, we try to squeeze from the unknown the answers we have already shaped in our own minds — judgments, justifications, validations, forms of consolation without which we might feel incomplete or off-center. To really ask something new is to open the door to being uncomfortable.
- Monsters do exist in the real world, but in most cases they are too few in number to be truly dangerous in the long run. More dangerous are the common people with good intentions who are instantly ready to believe and act without asking questions.
- If someone can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about how they answer you. (Be aware of emotional manipulation.)
- What goes around comes around. No one has ever made themselves strong by showing how small someone else is. Everyone you meet is learning something, is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something. Know this, and be careful not to dehumanize those you disagree with. In our self-righteousness we can too easily become the very things we dislike in others.
- At the end of the day, the questions you ask of yourself determine the type of person you will become.
- Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers — it happens when you are finally ready to face the questions you’ve been avoiding for far too long. (Note: Angel and I guide our students and Think Better, Live Better seminar attendees through this process of unearthing their inner courage.)
- Regardless of how much you know, or how many incredible questions you ask, you can never know it all. To believe that you do is proof of the contrary. The wilderness around us always holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask. And that’s a beautiful thing.
- Although life will always be filled with unanswered questions, it’s the courage to seek the answers that counts — this journey is what gives life meaning. Ultimately, you can spend your life wallowing in frustration and misery, wondering why life has to be so complicated, or you can be grateful that you are strong enough and smart enough to question your circumstances and grow from them. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Now, it’s your turn…
To be present and have patience with everything that remains unexplained in your heart and mind.
To engage with people today, including those who think differently.
To ask questions.
To listen closely.
To not just grow in knowledge, but to also be a person who gives back.
To let your questions guide you, and then use what you’re learning to make a difference.
And if you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU before you go…
Which point mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
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