Lesson 14: Ask questions instead of making assumptions

Asking questions is one of the smartest things you can do.  This applies in just about any circumstance.  This is where that pause you take while using that mind-mouth filter comes in handy.  A quick answer only comes off as intelligent if the answer you gave actually answers the question in an intelligent way.  Sound confusing?  If you know the person you are talking to well enough, it shouldn’t be.  Regardless, make the effort to understand and empathize with whoever you are talking with.  It will prevent you from looking bad.

If you don’t understand something, ask.  If the person or people you are engaged in conversation with don’t know, or appear to be unsure, ask someone else that knows.  Keep seeking out the answer.  If a text message you receive is too confusing, or you even think it could be interpreted in more than one way, ask the person to clarify what they mean.  The same applies if you convey a message and are unsure whether or not it was properly understood.  If something looks or seems bad, it is not necessarily bad.  Rather than jumping to a conclusion that could be wrong or way off base, ask.  If the person you are asking has a problem with you wanting clarification, there is likely a bigger issue.

The quickest way to heated arguments or disagreements are failures in communication or the misunderstanding of messages.  There is no one size fits all when it comes to communication.  It is a process that is constantly changing and is different from person to person.  It is important to be aware that a certain word or phrase might not mean the same thing to everyone under the various possible contexts.  You have to listen and pay close attention.  At the first sign of trouble or misunderstanding, do whatever you can to work with the other person to make sure you are on the same page.  Let them know you think you are misunderstanding and want to take a moment to ensure your interpretations are accurate.  Usually, this means asking questions.  

It is easy to make assumptions or jump to conclusions.  You only have full access to all of the information on your end of the conversation.  You don’t know what is happening on their end of the message.  Their microphone might have picked out the wrong word, the predictive text might have changed something without them noticing, or maybe they meant one thing but didn’t realize it might cause you to interpret something else.  In the end, if you are unsure whether it is a good idea to ask them to explain or clarify, ask yourself whether you prefer to possibly annoy them by asking for clarification, or make an assumption or conclusion that could potentially lead to a verbal or physical altercation.

Asking for clarification serves other helpful purposes as well.  It helps you to better understand the thought process of whoever you are talking to.  It helps you get to the bottom of what the actual issue or message might mean.  It will guide you into a much more productive conversation and put you on the same page as the other person so there is no confusion.  Most importantly, it demonstrates that you care.  You care enough about the other person to make sure that what is being said is understood and you want to make sure that the message is properly received in the way it was intended.

It is also important to note that asking questions is how you gain valuable insight that you cannot gain on your own.  Outside perspectives are how we learn and grow.  You already know everything that you know and you have already heard all of the stories that you have told.  Broaden your horizons by asking fun and insightful questions.  Asking questions serves many other purposes as well.  It lets people know that what they have to say is important and valued.  It makes them feel better about themselves.  It increases the chances that they will like you and find you pleasant to be around.     


  1. Asking questions is one of the smartest things you can do
  2. There is nothing wrong with getting clarification
  3. If you don’t know, ask
  4. Words and phrases don’t mean the same thing to everyone
  5. You already know everything you know

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