Reality Check: Why Not Ask?

“I’m not going to bother asking because I know what I’ll hear.”
Have you ever held back from making a request using that reasoning? For example, “I won’t bother to ask for a refund because I know it will be denied.”
Yet, how do we “know”? How can we be sure of the outcome of a request unless we ask? Perhaps we are working under the misperception that we can read minds.
The ability to understand another’s perspective—to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes—is a very helpful skill. When we know our friend is going through a difficult time, empathy helps. Asking ourselves, “If this were me, what would I want to hear?” can be a useful (although not foolproof) approach to a difficult situation.
However, it would be an error to think that we know for sure what other people are thinking, what they need, or how they will respond.
The assumption that we can read minds can have a negative impact on us. If we believe that we already know the answer, we may choose to avoid asking the question, thereby missing the opportunity to learn.
How about trying something different?
In many choices, even tiny ones, there are potential risks and potential benefits. Take the simple example of, “Should I ask for that refund or not?” On the one hand, the risk is that the clerk might decline your request. They may even be rude to you. You might feel embarrassed for having asked.
On the other hand, the potential benefit is that the clerk might refund your purchase cheerfully, and even apologize for your inconvenience. You get a good, positive experience, not to mention the benefit of getting your money back!
Weighing the risks and the benefits of asking the question may help you decide rationally rather than emotionally. What might you gain by asking? What is there to lose by asking?
Another reason we sometimes avoid asking is because we believe we will hear discouraging words. It’s a valid point. For example, does it make sense to ask someone, “Do you think I will succeed in what I am attempting to do?”
The answer, of course, is “It depends.” If you are looking for reassurance that you are making a good decision, and you believe that the person will respond negatively because they want to discourage you, then why, indeed, would you ask?
On the other hand, if you are genuinely looking for information, this can be a very useful question. It will be most useful when asked of someone who truly has valuable insight and information to offer.
There are always things that we can control and things that we can’t. We can control what questions we ask; we can’t control what answers we get. We may hear what we expected to hear. Or, we may be disappointed. It’s even possible that we’ll hear a more positive response than we had hoped!
Regardless, we can control how we choose to react to the answers.
Asking questions is a wonderful way to learn, especially when we haven’t prejudged the answers. Do you ever hold back from asking questions? If so, why?

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