Don't Be Afraid To Ask Dumb Questions

Whether it's a hot new movie, a huge sports event, or a TV show that it feels like everyone is watching, it's no fun to be caught out of the loop during water cooler chats or party conversations. If you want to be a part of it all, let go of your pride and ask some dumb questions about it.

Photo: U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh

We're often far too concerned with what other people think we know. Maybe you research the basics of football so you can talk about the big game that seems to be on everyone's mind at work. Or perhaps you read a brief summary of Westworld online because your friends are always discussing it.

Or maybe sometimes, to be a part of the fun, you flat out lie and say you know all about that current pop culture thing, hoping nobody will call you out. It's a scenario we've seen fail time and time again in sitcoms, yet many of us still do it in an attempt to blend in. This is problematic in a few ways:

  1. You might get found out as a poseur. It's not the end of the world if it happens, but it puts people off because you no longer seem genuine.

  2. You're unable to bring anything to the table. The other party or parties will think you're in the know and escalate the level of the conversation, discussing things that will probably be too complex for you to have any useful input. That can make you look like an idiot, the conversation can become uninteresting for the others because you just keep nodding your head saying, "Yeah, totally," and you might get things spoiled for you if the topic is a story of some kind.

  3. You miss an opportunity to actually learn about the subject.

What should you do instead? Say you don't know anything about the subject and ask questions about it — no matter how stupid they sound. This solves all three problems I mentioned above. You retain your genuineness because you're being honest, you don't look like a fool that's bogging down the conversation with your lack of knowledge and lastly, you actually open yourself up to learning something.

But most importantly, people like you more when you ask questions. We love to feel knowledgeable on a subject, and what we love even more is to be the ones to share that knowledge. It makes us feel useful and heard.

So use that to your advantage! Instead of lying, say, "Oh, I've heard of that, but I don't anything about it. Can you explain it to me?" It's like asking a little kid to tell you about their favourite toys. Their face will light up and you'll get a decent introduction to the topic.

And if you want to earn some bonus points, tell them you'll check it out based on their recommendation. Those dumb questions aren't so dumb after all.


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