The power of asking a question is limitless.
Throughout my youth and very brief adulthood, I found one thing to be true: it is an innate human reaction to ask, “Why?”
Every parent seems to have lived through a stage of their child’s life where everything (and I mean everything) is met with three simple, yet sometimes unexplainable, letters: W-H-Y. As children, we are curious to explore how the world works and with the simplistic vocabulary we possess at such an age, it’s easiest just to ask, “Why?”
However, at a certain age our mindsets shift, almost out of thin air, to this belief that we suddenly hold the knowledge to every and anything life could throw at us. It is at this age, I believe, we lose the curiosity to ask, “Why?”
Throughout my college years, I began to realize that I grew out of that know-it-all phase and began, again, to ask that three-letter question. I realized I had a passion for learning and wanted to know what the purpose of everything around me was and what made it tick. I was even able to alter my interests by becoming informed on a topic.
As I am now about six weeks into my first career job, I have periodically thought back to what my grandfather had told me at a very young age. It was somewhere along the lines of not being the loudest guy in the room, but in fact, being the opposite. It is not always be the most popular route to take, as it may seem you have outcasted yourself or are disinterested in what is being discussed, yet I find it lends to the opposite of that notion.
Being able to sit in a room and listen to what others are saying will make you the most powerful person in that room, simply because the knowledge you are taking in, instead of being distracted concocting what your response will be. Understanding others’ true needs and having the ability to do something about those needs can make you a very successful person.
I have also found this to be true in my professional life. Coming out of college with a business degree and really not a clue of what I wanted to do with it, one of the last places I expected to find myself working was in anything related to the construction industry. Luckily, with the help of some amazing people I have been fortunate to meet, I landed a job with a Due Diligence firm named Commercial Building Consultants. With CBC I perform various tasks, including overseeing and managing a hotel renovation project for my firm. My first week on the job I was attending project management meetings with General Contractors, owners, and subcontractors who specialize in electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work (industries where my knowledge is primitive).
By my fifth week on the job, I was scheduling and coordinating meetings with these subcontractors to discuss our scope and to gain some insight on their thoughts for the project. Again, I seemed to find it necessary to ask the question, “Why?” When speaking to subcontractors, they tend to get caught up in the verbiage or technical jargon that their profession involves; therefore, to me, it is as if they are speaking a foreign language most of the time. I found this as a perfect opportunity for me to ask questions pertaining to their work in order to increase the depth of my knowledge within their specific industry. In order to get a more thoroughly informed answer, I would brainstorm questions that would involve extracting the most information about what I intended to learn about and let the subcontractors talk until the cows came home. It is remarkable how much professionals love to talk about their particular expertise.
I believe there is a misconception among millennials and younger generations that asking questions appears uneducated or inferior, especially in the golden age of Google. However, I have found, in my very brief professional career, that people are more-than-willing to answer questions to help you obtain information that you may need. Never once have I felt that these professionals were bothered by my asking, and in fact, I've noticed that they love to talk about their jobs because you’re probably the only person all day that will discuss it with them.
If I were to end this piece by hammering home one message, I think it would clearly be—to ask the question (especially, “Why”). Becoming more informed of a situation, especially when managing a project, will never be a detriment, however, not asking the question, especially when you had the opportunity, can only lead to regret.