asking questions in public

Asking Questions Fearlessly

One of the challenges young adults face is asking questions fearlessly to get what they need. What do I mean by that? Let me give you an example. Susan, a recent high school graduate, was just accepted into the college of her choice. She excitedly attends the new student orientation with her parents. During the orientation session a lot of brochures and booklets highlighting many of the college academic programs, activities and services were provided along with an overview on how things worked.  Then came time for questions.

Susan had a question about paying for classes. She heard about a payment plan and was told she can pay in monthly installments. She wanted to learn more about it and asked the college representative conducting the orientation how the payment plan worked. The representative gave her a quick overview of the payment plan but Susan had specific questions that were not answered. Many students and parents asked questions on a variety of topics and eventually time ran out. Susan left without getting all her questions answered.

Four Key Learning Points

Now there are 4 points to learn from this scenario.  First and foremost, I have to applaud Susan for having the courage to ask a question during the orientation. Why? Well, many young adults feel intimidated when they need to speak in an unfamiliar group setting like a student orientation. Many have questions but feel too shy or embarrassed to ask and fear that their questions may be viewed as stupid. Now, at Life Skills Instructor, we expect you to FEARLESSLY face your challenges…big or small. So, yay Susan!! Now, let’s see what lessons can be learned from this scenario…

First – Specific questions may not be answered in group setting

In a group setting like new student orientation session, there will often be over a dozen or more new students and their parents in attendance. College representatives must cover a significant amount of information in a limited time period. For example, a typical new student orientation session might go about 2-3 hours to cover the necessary info. This means they may not be able to cover the specifics for every program or service the college offers. The information they provide will often cover the key points such as: what is offered, how the program works, who qualifies, what is needed to be eligible, etc. Specific information is often provided either on the college website or by talking to a dedicated representative responsible for that program or service. So, understand that you may not get all of your specific questions answered in this type of setting.

Second – You can fearlessly ask questions if they are first written down

If there is an opportunity in such setting to ask questions, write your specific questions down as the information is being presented.  You can jot them down on paper or using your memo pad on your phone or tablet.  There are many free notepad apps for Android phones & iPhones.   When you write down your questions, be very specific in what you want to ask.  If your question is vague, then you may get a vague response.

Using our example, one question Susan may have wanted to ask is how she would make the payments if she signed up for the payment plan.  So a good way to phrase that question would be, what are the ways I can make payments if I sign up for the payment plan?  Keep in mind, you can fearlessly pose your questions if you are confident in what you are asking. Writing down your questions can help build the necessary confidence.

Third – Ask specific questions to get specific answers

Another question Susan had was if she can get her money back if she changes her mind about the payment plan.  So, she can fearlessly ask that question by stating, if I decide to cancel my payment plan, can I get the full amount of the money I paid back and how long do I have to request a refund?  Do you see how specific that question is?  This type of detailed question will guarantee that you receive the type of response which will be beneficial in making the correct decision.

Fourth – Fearlessly following up with appropriate depts./person(s)

Since Susan’s questions were not answered during the session, what is her plan now?  Does she just give up and not sign up for the plan or sign up and hope for the best?  Absolutely not. One key step Susan can take BEFORE she leaves the session is to fearlessly ask the college representative after the meeting has ended, to direct her to the person who can provide the specifics about the payment plan.  She would need to get a name, department such as the bursar or business office, a contact phone number and the hours of operation.  She should also take the name of the college representative she spoke with as a reference point.

Oftentimes, young adults receive instruction from individuals of authority but do not take the time to get the name and title of the person they spoke with.  The problem with this is that they don’t know who to refer back to if needed and will have to explain themselves over again with each person who is brought into the conversation.

Another action Susan can take is to fearlessly go the department or person in charge of the payment plan right after the orientation session.  It is often easier to get things done in person than on the phone.  People will have to stop what they are doing to assist you if you are standing in front of them.  Additionally, you will often be given priority if you are asking your questions in person than over the phone.


Let’s hear your thoughts!

Dr. Linda
Dr. Linda

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