by Rick West
Why it’s just as important to answer questions as it is to ask them
I was busy making dinner, my little boy said to me “Dad, can you help me with this?” I swiftly replied, “Try and figure it out yourself, I’m busy.”
What I wasn’t prepared for was his response. Being the strong-willed little man he is, he replied “Dad, when someone asks you for help, it’s kind to help them, it’s unkind not to help!”
I had to take a minute to appreciate the profundity of that statement. This wasn’t just my son’s naive innocence, he was right. So frequently, we get lost in our all-consuming, busy lives.
At times, most of us can be guilty of an air of self importance, assuming that what we are doing is far more important than anything else. Sometimes, we simply can’t be bothered. Too often we put things off.
Getting a little perspective
What was especially funny about this, was that I had been on the receiving end of a similar experience at work that day. I’d been stuck on a problem for most of the day, lost in the sea of code, with no documentation to rescue me. When I finally reached out to my senior developer, I was greeted with an abrupt “can’t you just figure it out? I’m busy.”
Sound a bit familiar?
The thing was, I really couldn’t figure it out. I do like to figure things out myself, but in this rare instance, I’d had to swallow my pride and ask for help. I’d exhausted all my known options and I just needed a little bit of time and mentorship.
You know what’s worse than having someone bug you, asking for your help when you’re busy?
Being that person who needs that little bit of help!
Lend a helping hand
I eventually did get the guidance I needed, problem solved. But this situation got me thinking about the multitude of questions from developers that I see on Stack Overflow, Facebook, and the various other social media outlets and forums.
Quite often people are quick to patronize the person asking the question with “Just Google it” or “Figure it out.” While I do appreciate that a massive part of learning development is learning how to solve and overcome these problems yourself…
…Sometimes, you just need that little nudge in the right direction. You don’t always see the obvious solution right in front of you, and sometimes you just don’t know.
Usually, however, when someone reaches out and asks a question, it’s because they have exhausted all their other options.
What’s obvious to some, isn’t always obvious to others!
There’s no such thing as a stupid question
This is a popular phrase that has had a long history. It suggests that the quest for knowledge includes failure. And it implies that just because one person may know less than others, they should not be afraid to ask their question (rather than pretending they already know the answer).
In many cases, multiple people may not know but are too afraid to ask the “stupid question.” The one who asks the question may in fact be doing a service to those around them.
At some point in our lives, learning, or careers, we will all have to ask for help. So please never be afraid to ask questions. It’s how we learn.
Equally, when your are asked or maybe see a question that you can answer, no matter your level of ability — please do so!
Don’t fob someone off or scroll past that seemingly simple question. Five minutes of your time really can make a massive difference to someone in need of just a little guidance. Not only that, but answering a question can really help solidify your knowledge on a topic and help you improve your verbal or written communication skills.
By being involved, asking questions, answering them, mentoring, guiding, and sharing or absorbing knowledge, you really can enrich and encourage our community to thrive ?.
We don’t always appreciate it, but giving someone a little time is the most valuable thing we can give them.
As my son so wisely says…be kind.
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