Have something to say.

If you’re struggling to think of what to say, perhaps you should listen more. In a world of noise and consistent stimulation, the urge to shout into the void is overwhelming. The desire to be heard.

If you were a passenger on a train barrelling towards someone tied to the tracks, you would be compelled to scream out to them in the hopes they can hear, even if you have no power over the ability to stop the train, and they have no capacity to untie themselves. To you in the moment, there may simply be an irrefutable desire to let them, and everyone else on the train know, that it horrify you, and that you would do something about it if you could. And while this is very good for the passenger, it matters not very much to he who is tied to the track.

The problem then it seems, is that the fear of not being heard, outweighs the need to have something to say. To have something that can cause change, in the heart or the mind. Hence an era of blogging, to meet quota rather to inspire, or to relate. No one wants to educate, they just want to have their opinion shared. Equally however, they are so bombarded with story and information from others, they may not even be able to hear their own thoughts, or listen to the reply.

And that’s equally an important distinction, is that a conversation is two way – which results in mutual affirmation and education. One’s theory can only be expanded upon hearing another knowledge base which can confirm or deny it. Shouting into the void is remarkably one-way, and seldom results in any kind of actual validation, or expansion of the mind. If your opinion can reach anyone, as in the age of the internet it can; then equally anyone – regardless of whether they hold a genuine opinion or not, can respond and seem just as valid as anyone else. Largely, we experience not validation – but either nothing, or a sort of anti-validation when no one responds. Or “likes”. Perhaps you like a photo of you, and find that for once you look beautiful, but when you post it, no one or few people like it, so immediately you assume it must be disgusting. – When in fact, perhaps people were simply busy. Or… didn’t care.

The simple fact is, no one has a compulsion or a requirement to care. And while that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say it – it just perhaps means you should be less offended by it.

Perhaps you should be less worried, about the desire to have your thoughts heard or validated. You may not like what you find.

“If you remain silent; people may think you’re a fool. If you open your mouth; they may know it for a fact.”

There is nothing wrong, with listening to others for a change, even if you don’t like what you hear. And when you decide you are ready to speak, be sure you have something to say.

There are no stupid questions.

There are no stupid questions; only stupid answers.

To be a good teacher – and not just a successful educator – it is important to remember that the idea of being stupid (a horrible thing to think of someone, or to address someone as) could only be reserved for someone who lacks intelligence. And you know the only way to gain more knowledge, and to be more intellectual as person? Asking, questions.

Fundamentally, the sentence “They were asking stupid questions” or “that was a stupid question” is flawed – you’ll most likely either have said this in a moment of fury, or have overheard a disgruntled friend or colleague complaining. While it’s easy to understand why someone might say this, as they’re just frustrated, its equally not a helpful phrase for anyone.

Let’s suppose that you have never learned how to wash your clothes. You are a teenager, and have just moved out for the first time in your life. There is no washing machine in your apartment, so you head to the nearest laundromat with a couple of bags of dirty clothes, that you’ve no doubt put off washing. Nervous, you stumble your way towards a stranger, and in a moment of courage, you tap them on the shoulder and explain to them your predicament. “I’ve just never learned how to wash my clothes” You’ll say, “So… How DO you wash your clothes? Is there a system for putting it in the washing machine, or do you put anything in with it or… ?”

They laugh in your face. They sputter their words, and they repeat it, “You don’t know how to wash your clothes!? Are you stupid!?” They continue their merriment, maybe chuckle to themselves or turn to a friend. And you sit there wondering… “Am I stupid?”

What’s happened in that scenario, and in every other scenario where a variant of this has happened, is that someone asked for help to improve their own understanding, and was made to feel small in return. As though because they did not know something, that they know nothing. Which, ironically, is a stupid thing for someone to think. By acting that way, or by saying these things, you’re only conditioning someone not to ask questions, because when they do, they’re reprimanded. So they may stop asking questions. And without questions they don’t know answers. Now you’re hurtful comments have sustenance to them, but only because of what you did. And by doing that, you are far more stupid, and worst yet ignorant, than they could ever be.

You may not consider yourself a stupid person, and yet – do you know anything about botany? Or rocket science? Or fishing? Maybe even geology, sociology, psychology, phrenology? If you are not an expert in all these fields, it would be expected that at some point if you wanted to know more about the subject you would have to ask a question, no? So, does this make you stupid?

Fundamentally, we are all uneducated in some aspects of life. To call someone stupid, or make them feel small in any way, because you excel in an area they do not; is arrogant. It’s unkind, it’s unfair, and you are objectively helping to numb society to the pursuit of intelligence.

Curiosity IS intelligence. To wonder what lies beyond. To wonder about that which you do not know, and pursue it relentlessly. Do not stifle someone, and trip them up at the first hurdle of understanding. You are hurting someone’s potential more than you know.

Next time someone asks a question you feel they should know; that you feel is a stupid question – be patient. Take your time to think of the appropriate answer. For it is you who is on the ropes. Because there are no stupid questions; only stupid answers.