Fernando: Asking questions


ASKING a question is supposed to be met with an encouraging attitude. It indicates a yearning for knowledge. The academe should know way more about the benefits of asking questions. Yet, it is not always the case.

I had attended an online seminar one time, and at the end of the talk, the moderator signaled the question and answer portion. During open forums like this, the trend is for the facilitator to encourage participants to ask questions for clarity purposes. This part also speaks of the level of the participants’ engagement.

I was in the mood to clarify a vague understanding of a work process. It was an opportunity for the participants to obtain a direct answer from a reliable source since the seminar’s speaker is from the higher office. So, I asked some questions. I received an answer and I was happy to have it.

The next day, I received a message from a superior telling me that a fellow supervisor informed her about me asking lots of questions. I was taken aback. A colleague informing a direct superior about me asking questions perceived as too much implies that she needed to remind me not to ask or not to ask too much. I had to reflect to comprehend the idea of discouraging someone to ask by a superior, but I only found negative thoughts.

My direct superior had no issue with it, and she was professional and understanding enough to lend me her support. She even told me not to think about it. I thanked her for the support. I could not ignore or forget the idea that asking a question by a teacher in a seminar becomes an issue among few superiors. I was forced to reflect on why people like me ask questions.

Asking a question means something is not known or something is not clear. So, if a person asks, she/he has no idea of the subject matter, or she/has a vague idea on it. This knowledge may already be clear on others but not on the person asking the question.

Asking a question means that the person inquiring does not know or lack the knowledge of the idea being asked. This is the part where inquiring/clarifying becomes an issue among superiors. During organizational meetings, conferences, seminars, and similar assemblies, some supervisors do not like their subordinates asking questions because, for them, they share the accountability of their ignorance.

What is distorted in this idea? As long as it is done properly or appropriately, the nature of asking a question is laudable. So, to ask a question does not mean to show that one is ignorant. It is a mark of one’s eagerness to learn. If this is a sign of ignorance, it is still praiseworthy because of the desire to learn.

The absence of questions after a discussion means the audience understood the discussion well. This is supposed to be the case, but in some aspects of our culture, the absence of questions could mean lacking the courage to ask because of fear and embarrassment. My students are afraid to ask questions (most of the students do) because they think their questions are dumb. Thus, the act of questioning becomes embarrassing. They do not want to be called show-off because this is what others feel about people asking questions.

The academe should know better when it comes to asking questions, but it is unfortunate that some associate negative connotations to it. Asking a question is a sign of humility because it is accepting that one does not know things. More importantly, it is the first step in seeking truth and knowledge. So, why bother to stop us from asking questions?


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