There is a great deal of emphasis on being smart these days. Being smart can be interpreted in different ways, so it is difficult to answer the obvious question of ‘how’ to become smart or, rather, smarter. But there is one thing that may contribute largely to the process of becoming smart. That is asking questions, being curious.
Can you imagine how limited our own knowledge would have been if all the great thinkers from Archimedes to Newton, from Pythagores to Einstein and from Darwin to Ramanujam had not raised the many questions that they did? The pursuit for answers paved the way for advancing human knowledge about vivid matters, wouldn’t you agree?
If you have younger siblings, you must have observed this natural phenomenon at work. They relentlessly ask questions. Why do we have eyes? What is that blinking at the night time? As we grow the need to know is often hampered by the thought if ‘what will others think of me?’.
Conquering this fear of being thought of as weak, unsure or ignorant and moving ahead to ask pertinent questions everywhere is important. Here are a few reasons for you to ponder on and see the benefits for yourself:
1. Asking questions helps you understand better: How about a few questions first? When do questions arise in your mind? They arise when you are paying attention to the subject matter and fail to grasp something about it. It is then that you want clarifications or answers. Seeking them will help you gain a better grasp on the subject matter. Thus you will understand it better. This information that you have gained by way of active participation will stay with you longer than anything that is mugged up.
2. Asking questions boosts confidence: If you raise your hand in class to ask a pertinent question, the answer itself is a big reward as it helps improve your understanding of the matter as well as shows the teacher that you have been paying attention.
3. Asking questions introduces you to new things: There is probably no need to explain this one as it is quite obvious that when you raise a question you might get to learn many new things not just about one subject but also about many related topics.
Asking questions is an effective tool to advance your knowledge but you have to make sure that it does not make you come across as intrusive and inquisitional. It is one thing to be inquisitive and another to disturb a class. Remember to articulate the question before raising it otherwise you might end up hemming and hawing in front of your classmates. Also remember to raise a question to further your knowledge or understanding and not just to get noticed as that will do you more harm than good.
You can practise asking questions in your day to day conversations to gain confidence in your ability to ask. Intelligent questions are thought provoking. They inform and inspire. Pertinent questions stimulate healthy debate and discussion leading to better outcomes.
It is natural to feel tongue-tied in a class of 40 or 50 students, but don’t let that stop you from clarifying your doubts or getting answers to your questions. Don’t judge your questions. Even if they sound silly to you, if you think the answer will help you understand better, learn newer things, then go ahead and ask.