By nature, I’m a pretty curious person. I’ve never really been afraid of asking questions. To the annoyance of many at one time or another, I’m sure.
Now, as a mom to two toddlers, I realize (daily) what it feels like to be on the other side. Did you know that preschool children ask an average of 100 questions a day? That’s a lot of questions. Like, a lot of questions.
“Why are we holding hands?”
“Why is the sky blue?”
“Why do you have that funny look on your face?”
“Why do I have to brush my teeth?”
“Why?” “Why?” “Why?”
They’ve tested my knowledge. They’ve made me laugh. They’ve surprised me.
And, let’s be honest, they’ve sometimes annoyed the heck out of me.
But more than anything, they’ve reminded me how important it is to be brave and curious. How asking a simple question can open the floodgates to thinking, to understanding, to creativity. When my daughters ask a question, they’re taking an active role in their own learning. They’re trying to figure out how the world works by seeking information. And they’re developing critical thinking skills that build brain power and knowledge.
While we all start as super-questioners (trust me — my almost-4-year-old is the best!), this instinctual habit gets trained out of us to some degree. As we get older, many times we’re rewarded for knowing the answer to something — not asking good questions. There’s the challenge of seemingly admitting a lack of knowledge or competency by asking a question, especially in a situation where the expectation is to know all the answers.
In my experience, though, success begins with curiosity and the desire and openness to listen and learn — especially in the agency world. Not being the one with the answer but rather a good question opens the door to conversation and conversation to important and lasting relationships. It helps uncover challenges and generate better solutions to solve problems. And it can inspire creativity and drive that “aha” moment, which can lead to innovation and growth.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: If you don’t ask the questions, you’ll never know the answers. And as my kiddoes have reminded me, good questions don’t have to be complicated. Even a question as simple as “Why?” can yield some pretty powerful opportunities to learn and grow. You just have to be willing to put it out there.
Jennifer Yost is VP, Group Account Supervisor at HCB Health. Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn