I've written about the willingness to ask a question and how being the person who is willing to ask a question can be powerful. Usually when I say this I'm talking about the willingness to do this in spite of a fear of looking or sounding stupid.

I recently had a different, but related, experience.

I was in a contentious meeting. People were not communicating and everyone was digging their heels in for a fight.

I asked a question.

It wasn't a great a question. It wasn't a terribly insightful question. It was a legitimate question - something that I really didn't understand because it wasn't clear to me what a certain part of the disagreement was about. I also didn't understand why no one was talking about it.

It was enough to open a door to a different discussion in this case. It was enough to expose that there were things that were unclear to people in the room, and it gave everyone a chance to take a breath and look at the disucussion from a different perspective.

It was enough to make the discussion a lot more productive, if not 100% friendly.

A question won't always resolve these situations. However, asking such a question is important if you are going to contribute to a discussion (and hopefully a resolution).

And it can help others look at their own assumptions and realize they may have questions of their own.

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