We seem to direct our lives with a variety of humble, good-intentioned, ideal, yet completely nonsensical apothems that tend to constrict our success and options. One of the worst of these is, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”
Au contraire. A stupid question is one which the asker can readily answer for himself or herself if the time were invested, or defies logic, or refuses to blink in the face of the egregiously obvious. I shall demonstrate.
A woman asks why she hasn’t received her free teleconference download which I promise “within 48 hours.” The answer is that she’s registered for a teleconference the next month, and I can’t provide a recording of something that is yet to be delivered.
A man asks why he didn’t receive his book, which is ordered with an advance, prepublication discount for a publication date on August 15. He asks this on July 10.
I’m sometimes asked by a consultant something like this: “I have a meeting with the CEO of a $500 million firm tomorrow. What should I do?” Oh, I don’t know, what about singing something? Or: “Three people gave me business cards after my speech. What’s the next step?” Avoid a paper cut.
Then there’s the general and unanswerable: “What should I do when networking?” Or, “What should I consult about?” Could you be less specific?
“Would you please make it warmer in here?” No, there are 150 people in this room and I’m not adjusting the temperature per every individual request. (One woman complained about her poor seat, the only one remaining in the room, and asked me if she could have a better one. She had arrived ten minutes after I began.)
It’s a good idea to ask yourself whether you already know the answer to your question. It often resides in a rare lobe of the brain called “common sense.” Apparently, some people have had it surgically removed.
© Alan Weiss 2013
PS: I’d welcome here your best examples of stupid questions you’ve been asked. Example, to AT&T:
ME: My phone has no dial tone and I can’t call out.
THEM: Are you on that phone now talking to me?