Willing to AskFeb. 14, 2021
When I was a kid, I didn't understand that babies were a consequence of having sex. I’d hear people say "we've been trying to get pregnant for a few months now", and I'd think to myself: that’s wonderful, so what have you been trying?
Looking back, I really wish that I had asked the question. The awkward exchange that followed would have been worth it alone. But more importantly, I was curious. I really wanted to understand!
But I didn’t ask. Because I was terrified of looking stupid. Because I wanted to portray that “oh yeah, I know how all that works.” So I kept my mouth shut, and tried to piece it together from movies and the media.
The thing is, if we’re not careful, it’s easy to continue this behavior as an adult. Out of a desire to appear smart, or in-the-know, or well-informed, we pretend to understand what someone says, instead of asking.
- The client asks “what do you think we should do?” and we make up something full of jargon, instead of acknowledging “I’m not sure yet. Do you mind if I ask a few more questions?”
- The boss says “are we all on the same page?” and we say “yep!” instead of interjecting “actually, no, I'm a little unclear, will you clarify what you mean by _____?"
Sure, there’s risk in asking. There's a chance the other person might become annoyed or frustrated, or think you’re slow-witted.
But there’s also upside. You might learn something really valuable. The other person might appreciate your honesty, or say “I’m glad you asked”. You might save yourself hours (or weeks) of re-work. And you might take your relationship to a new level of understanding.