The phrase used to be “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” Recently, however, I’ve had several people tell me that, in the age of Google, this phrase is no longer relevant, that there now IS such a thing as a stupid question. Although I understand where they are coming from, I’m going to have to argue the opposite in my usual old school/contemporary way. So here are four reasons that I think there is still no such thing as a stupid question:
- The complete phrase is “There is no such thing as a stupid question, there are, however, lazy questions.” This phrase I agree with and fully believe in, especially in the age of Google. If you need the formula for percentage change, it’s a simple Google search away. So is the date that the movie Back to the Future traveled into the future and who holds the World Record for the longest fingernails. These are factually based answers that are just a click away. So, yes, if you ask one of these while having access to the internet, it’s a lazy question.
- There is a lot of incorrect information out there (and it gets repeated). The Internet provides the fuel for old wives tales and rumors to spread like wildfire. There are some ways to tell the crap from the good stuff, but they are no foolproof, and if it’s a topic that you are not at least somewhat knowledgeable about, it’s going to be hard to decipher the good information from the bad information. If you already know an expert, it’s much more reliable to ask them. At the very least, they can point you down the right path.
- Sending “Let me Google that for you” links is rude. I don’t care how you try to rationalize it, sending one of these links as an answer to someone’s question communicates that you think they are stupid or lazy. Clearly, this is not the best way to build a relationship with someone.
- Asking questions is one of the most fundamental ways of having a conversation with someone. If a person is asking you a question that isn’t covered under #1 or #2 on this list, then they are probably more curious about your slant/opinion/view of something or they are just plain interested in you. They are not looking for the standard information they are going to find online. They are trying to form a relationship. If you are on the opposite side of this equation, and you are nervous that you might get a “look it up” type of answer, consider rephrasing the question to say something like “I’m curious your personal thoughts on,” or “What does x mean to you?” This takes a lot of practice and self-discipline not to just think “I’ll Google that later,” but it’s much better for your relationships.
Got it? Or do I need to Google it for you?