Is it true that there really are no stupid questions?

People say all the time that there are no questions too stupid to ask, but I'm thinking that's really not true. Or rather, that you can ask them, but beware the consequences. For example, I was just reading this post on the Fully Committed blog, in which a stupid question ("So what does National Speakers Association do?” asked of the NSA's meeting planner by a new national sales representative for a major hotel corporation who has had the NSA's file on her desk for months) still lingers in that planner's mind 10 years after the fact.

I've asked at least one that I know of in my 12 years with MeetingsNet. Someone at a conference a couple of years ago told me about how a question I asked him about AMA PRA Category 1 credit when I was first starting out was in fact so stupid that he regularly uses it as an example when talking with people (with, "can you believe an editor with Medical Meetings didn't know that?!"). Why he felt compelled to tell me this I don't know—I'd really rather not have known not only about my stupid question, but that it lives on in infamy, thank you very much.

Anyway, I understand Cara's point in her post, that the person really should have done her homework before the meeting (and I agree that she should have). And I guess I should have learned the details of this aspect of the business I'd be covering before interviewing anyone. (I am struggling not to defend myself here, because there's a lot to know with this business, and I really don't think it was wrong to ask instead of pretending I knew what he was talking about. Oops, a little defensiveness just slipped through!)

In the end, even with my face glowing red every time I think about my stupid question experience, I stand by my philosophy that it's always better to ask, whether you know, as the rep did in Cara's example, that the question is stupid, or not, as was the case with me. And hope that the person you're asking understands that you're only asking because you want to learn, even if it is too little and too late.

What do you think? Is it better to lower the quality of the interaction by not asking that stupid question and blustering your way through? Or is it better to ask it and lose face/cred with the other person in order to have a more informed discussion?

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