How I Gained the Courage to Ask Questions

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

— Voltaire

There is a phase in our childhood where we wanted answers for everything that didn’t make much sense to us. Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs bark? Why am I still small? Why, why, why?

Looking from the outside in, it isn’t enjoyable. But parents know that this is the curious phase, and this must be enriched rather than shunned.

I did ask my mother questions that would baffle her. She would do her best and try to answer that would give me some peace but not entirely. She always wanted me to figure things out along the way. Therefore, some answers weren’t that detailed, and eventually, life gave me all my answers in their entirety.

However, as I grew older, my whys started to diminish. I would be afraid to ask questions. Why?

Answer — School.

Take Your Questions Somewhere Else

You see, I went to an all-girls convent school, which the government funded. In the class I was in, there were sixty students in one class. Thus, rather than being encouraged, the teachers would prefer that we ask our questions elsewhere. The result — students were now afraid to ask questions.

Rather than making a fool of yourself, why not just keep your mouth shut and ask the question to someone who won’t embarrass you in public.

But here is the thing about questions. You think you will remember it later, but life gets in the way, and the question is buried somewhere in your mind, and you find it hard to recollect.

I knew this was toxic. I knew that if I didn’t go looking for my answers (without feeling embarrassed, that is), my mental growth would be hampered. I wanted to keep my curiosity alive, and my mother did her best to give me books that answered my questions. But what about those questions that circumstances force you to ask?

Should I Not Ask Anything at All?

You see, everyone’s life is different. Thus, we go through various events that bring up other questions. Are we then not supposed to ask them because they will bring up a conflict? Or are we supposed to be patient enough and find someone who will have the heart to explain?

Growing up, yes, I had books to my rescue, and the internet was just picking up. But when it comes to dealing with people and how they treat you, you must question them outright for your answers.

When I was ill-treated in my first relationship, I wouldn’t question his actions. I was so scared that his reaction would cause me harm. I thought maybe you weren’t supposed to ask questions until I had a wake-up call and thought this was enough. I went forward and asked my questions anyway, only to realise how much harm I was causing to myself being with someone who had no regard for my mental peace.

I Must Ask But Also Be Prepared for the Unforeseen Outcomes

You see, asking questions is hard. Because you don’t know how someone would react, some are kind, some get frustrated. Some think you are questioning their knowledge or worth, and worse, some feel you are questioning their trust. But with life and in the experiences that made me the person I am today, I realised that the reaction to my questions reveals more about the other person than it does about me.

When this life lesson dawned upon me, I decided that this intrinsic fear causes more harm than good. Not asking questions leads to more misunderstanding in relationships.

Therefore, now I ask myself the following and then ask my questions:

  • Did I understand what this person was talking about? If not, then I must ask them to repeat it in a manner that I understand.
  • Am I pretending to understand? If yes, I cannot lie to myself and even though I may sound stupid not to understand something this obvious, I don’t care. What matters is that I know and grow from the knowledge received.
  • Will asking tough questions strengthen the relationship? If yes, I must ask questions to know the person better, which will deepen the relationship.
  • Will asking the tough questions result in the person leaving? If yes, I must ask my questions because with people leaving, yes, it hurts, but what’s more important is my growth and entering the new chapter that life has in store.
  • Will me asking questions help someone heal? If yes, I must ask all my questions. However, they may seem very personal. But it’s up to the other person to answer them. At least I will feel rest assured that I tried my best to make someone feel lighter.

Asking questions, to be honest, is a double-edged sword. For some, when you don’t ask questions, it is seen as a lack of care. Whereas for some, they find it to be intrusive.

But where I find a median is that will asking that question result in a revelation that brings about a positive change in me and the relationship? Even though the questions are gut-wrenching, it’s only when we deal with tough questions that we evolve and become better humans.

I may have taken quite some time to find the courage to ask questions. But not asking them has led me to more profound miseries that I could have avoided if I had only asked. And thus, today, I ask questions without hesitation.

Because even though I know some may take it in their stride and some may not, what matters is my learning and the experience I gain to become a better human. And isn’t that what we all are aiming to be anyway?

Dear reader, inclusion to the Medium Partner Program is currently not eligible for Indian writers. If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider buying me a cup of ‘coffee’ here.

Also, do read this wonderful poem by Neha Sonney, Author. She highlights the most common dilemma these days — comparison on social media.

Thanks so much for your time!

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Sujona Chatterjee

Sujona Chatterjee

Living life the only way I know how — one day at a time.