What Wikipedia can’t tell you about asking questions

I’d love to write blogs like some of my good friends and mentors. I’ve done a couple and I love that feeling of ‘flow’ when thoughts are clear enough that they are easily put into words. The words then seeming to majestically dance around the page like a flock of Starlings preparing to roost for the night.

image1This ‘Flow’ doesn’t happen often. Why do I seem to find it so hard to just write? To put into simple words the views I have about topics. To share with others my opinions, thoughts and experiences.

One factor is fear. Fear that my ideas and views will be judged. Fear that once judged, I will feel lonely, embarrassed, uncomfortable and probably uncertain. What do I do with myself then?

As I look back through my past at decisions I’ve made and reflect on what I like to call ‘My Story’, I wonder how often fear has been an influence? I wonder how different things could be if I didn’t allow fear to cripple my ambitions. Perhaps attempting to articulate this in the form of a blog would be a good first step to overcoming some of these fears? Why would anyone be interested in My Story though? My Story just seems to be full of questions?

Why can’t it be done this way?

Why hasn’t that been thought of before?

Do I have the ability to do that?

What happens if it doesn’t work out?

What will people think?

Aha! Perhaps these are questions that other people have asked themselves as well? Maybe I’m not alone here! Perhaps by sharing some of My Story and some of my own questions then someone out there might find some relevance and ask a few of their own questions? Goodness, they might even enjoy reading what I have to say! BUT if not, then that is ok. That is OK.

So as I tackle some of my fears in attempting a blog I wonder if I will discover any answers. I have plenty of questions but it is very rare that I have the answers. I’m far from perfect and the fear of what I might hear does occasionally stop me from asking questions. Many times I’ve asked myself, ‘should I seek some feedback on that coaching session I just delivered?’ ‘What if they say it stank?’ ‘How will I react to that?’

I’ve seen many people for whom asking questions is just too difficult. Whether it be requesting feedback from others or having those difficult conversations with yourself in the mirror. That fear of not knowing the answer or fear of hearing something they don’t want to can be crippling. When we dig a bit deeper into what that fear actually is words like vulnerable, uncomfortable, lonely, embarrassed, judged, and uncertain keep cropping up. It’s natural to want to avoid using these words and even more so to avoid feeling them. Are there ways that we can embrace them though? Are we able to prepare for them? Are we even able to use them to our advantage when we experience them? Whether we like it or not, the very nature of this imperfect world we live in means that we WILL experience them at some point.

With a bit of courage and practice I think we can use these fears but just like Rachel Hunter said in that classic advert for Pantene Shampoo, ‘It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen’. (For those of you with brittle, lifeless hair or for those just wanting to check the advert)

Perhaps acknowledging that fear and all those feelings accompanying it are real and that we will experience them is the first thing. Then, accepting that it takes time to use them to our advantage. It takes time because it requires skills. Like all skills, we can improve them and get better at them BUT it won’t happen overnight. We have to practice. In this case the skills are in the act of asking questions. As adults, parents, teachers and coaches we are good at telling the young people whom we influence that they need to practice if they want to get better at something. So often this becomes a case of do as I say and not as I do. We forget that we too can get better at skills, we too can improve and wait for it….WE TOO CAN LEARN. I love reading books by very clever people that write about interesting stuff. Authors like Dr Carol Dweck, Malcom Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Daniel Coyle, Daniel Goleman and loads more (even some that aren’t called Daniel!) A couple of the more simple themes and messages in their books are,

Our brain is an amazing thing that is massively underused.

We all have talents and abilities that are often massively underused.

If we take sorry make the time to ask more questions then we could discover so much more about ourselves and about this amazing world which we all live in. Making that time is a skill. Having the courage to ask for feedback requires a skill. Accepting mistakes and seeing them as opportunities to learn requires a skill. I use the term skill because they are things that we can practice and master if we chose to.

image2Back to those words associated with the fear that so often stops us from asking questions. Words such as vulnerable, uncomfortable, lonely, embarrassed, judged, and uncertain.

Vulnerable – ‘I wonder if any of my friends, family or fellow coaches have felt this?’ ‘Perhaps by asking them I will find out?’ ‘Maybe I will discover that they have?’ ‘Maybe they haven’t BUT by asking I have learnt something about myself and others!’ Me 1: Fear from Vulnerability 0

Uncomfortable – ‘I wonder if any of my friends, family or colleagues felt this way before?’ ‘Perhaps by asking them I will find out?’ ‘Maybe I will discover that they have?’ ‘Maybe they haven’t BUT by asking I have learnt something about myself and others!’ Me 1: Fear from Uncomfortableness 0

Judged – ‘I wonder if any of my friends, family or fellow teachers have felt this way before?’ ‘Perhaps by asking them I will find out?’ ‘Maybe I will discover that they have?’ ‘Maybe they haven’t BUT by asking I have learnt something about myself and others!’ Me 1: Fear from being judged 0

There is a bit of a pattern here.

Asking questions, even at the risk of not finding immediate answers, is a way to use fear to our advantage. Being proactive is how we overcome those feelings associated with the fear. When we ask our way out of those feelings then we can free ourselves to ask the big, exciting questions such as ‘Why shouldn’t I go for that promotion?’ ‘Why couldn’t I start that business that I have always dreamed of?’ ‘Why don’t I apply for that new job when I am so miserable in this one?’ ‘Why don’t I learn to play that musical instrument?’ ‘Why couldn’t I train for that marathon?’

These feelings that we associate with fear are real and they are a real pain in the butt however we don’t have to let them stop us from exploring new opportunities, trying new things, practicing new skills and ultimately being the best that we can be.

So, if everything around you (including your hair) seems brittle and lifeless… ask a few questions!

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