The questions we ask can be extremely revelatory. They can demonstrate what information we find valuable, how well we pay attention, and what we don’t know. Maybe this is all why we’re so terrified to ask them. We’re afraid of the answer, the person we’re asking, of being asked, etc. It’s come to my attention lately that finding the courage to ask a question can be a lot harder than hearing the answer. To quote something I heard somewhere that I can’t remember but think is relevant, “partly one’s lazy, partly one’s shy,” and those are the biggest obstacles.
For all of my academic career, I’ve been told to meet with my teachers, go to office hours because “the professors are so accessible and are really there for their students.” While most have an open door policy when it comes to office hours, it’s usually easier to make an appointment to guarantee time. This has always been the hardest question for me to ask because it’s asking for help. I don’t want to need help. Everyone else seems to figure it out on their own, what’s my excuse? Unfortunately, this is what happens when I don’t ask for help when I struggle academically: I stress about asking to meet with my professor, I don’t ask, I stress about the paper or exam so then I procrastinate it while still being stressed, and then I receive a bad grade because I was both under-prepared and under-rested.
Have you ever noticed that, more often than not, when people raise their hand in class it’s to answer a question or raise a discussion point. Nobody really seems to ask questions anymore. You know they have questions because they message you the night before class asking them. No one asks enough questions in class and they should. For one thing, it takes up class time . Another thing, the professors appreciate someone paying attention to the material enough to have a question about it or to struggle with part of it. The most important reason for asking questions in class, how else are you going to get the answers?
Questions are symbols of human interest. They create connections to other people and the world around us, “how is your sister doing?”, “do you have any pets?”, “why are you majoring in neuroscience?”, “what is the song that’s playing?” Sometimes we ask these, sometimes we don’t. Maybe we don’t care enough or we have other stuff on our mind. I think they’re worth asking if you think of them. The first reason, the answers matter to someone. The second reason, because they occurred to you. The third, because they show you’re not just trapped in your own head worrying about whatever.
Sometimes people won’t ask for help. Sometimes you need to ask if they need it. Ask twice. Asking for help isn’t easy. Asking if someone needs it isn’t either. You don’t want to seem presumptuous or nosy. You don’t want to look like one of those people that gets off on being the one holding the crying person because we all hate that person. Asking that question could have a huge impact on someone else’s life. If someone is crying by themselves, if someone looks stressed or exhausted, ask the question. It’s the right thing to do and it may be the only thing you need to do.
Some people are naturally curious. Some people ask these questions all the time without thinking. I’m not saying you need to walk around like your least favorite five-year-old, “why is the ocean blue"? “Because the sky is blue”. “Why is the sky blue”?
Questions are worth asking because of their fundamental existence. Ask them. Learn something. Help someone. Help yourself.