When we want to know something, why don’t we just ask?
I’ve sat in mental misery spinning over a question endlessly: Does he like me? Is my boss upset? What did she mean by that? Will I be invited? Do we have any unfinished business? etc. etc. And I’ve seen plenty of other people – people old enough to know better – do the same thing.
When it finally dawned on me to just start asking, the relief was immense. It sounds so simple and obvious doesn’t it? But do you do it? Do you just ask?
Just asking does require a bit of bravery, some clarity, and self-awareness. Here are a few tips to get you started on your path to just asking:
- Don’t expect answers or even civility in response to questions that are none of your business.
- Sometimes answers will come in time. It’s okay to be patient and simply observe. Sometimes you already know the answer inside.
- Don’t ask questions to which you’re not prepared to hear any answer. If your heart is set on only one answer or outcome, then that’s not a question you should ask.
- If you want something and you’re already at “no”, you have nothing to lose by asking. People cannot respond with yes to the unasked question. I’ve been given plants, food, drinks, jewelry, raises, better seating, upgrades, discounts and help just because I asked. So ask!
Can I ask you something? What keeps you from just asking?
I love being exposed to new ideas. Sometimes they’re challenging or even scary to contemplate, but always, whole new worlds are revealed. I don’t want to miss out on that, so I’m alert for habits that can limit my ability to think well.
Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University was quoted in the New York Times as saying “We tend to see people who say negative things as smarter than those who are positive. If I tell you that you are going to give a lecture before smarter people, you will say more negative things.”
Notice Professor Nass doesn’t say that negative people are actually smarter, just that we tend to think they are.
A well-thought-out argument and lively debate are excellent ways to sharpen your intellect and ability to think critically. But critical thinking doesn’t mean one has to be negative. I can certainly give a reasoned argument that’s positive.
Being constantly negative and critical, especially if it’s done simply to try and impress others (or yourself – yikes!) with your intelligence, is a surefire way to limit your ability to see what’s good and working. It’s also a mental habit that diminishes happiness. No smart person would do that to themselves.