“There is no such thing as a stupid question.”
We’ve heard the cliché through many phases of life. When we were eager kids in the classroom, asking a friend for dating advice or even when we were the newbie in the office trying to find our bearings. The phrase seems reassuring, but asking questions, especially in front of a large group of people, can be very intimidating. Putting ourselves out there makes us instantly vulnerable and suddenly, there’s an underlying pressure to present ourselves as “clever” and “well-rounded.”
Think back. You’re sitting in a group of people, you have a burning question you want to ask, but you’re afraid you’ll look foolish or stupid, so you keep it to yourself. Then, someone else asks the question—SAVED! But did you notice, how was that person’s question received? Did they get backlash? Or did they get an answer and the group moved on?
I’d guess that situation has happened dozens of times in your life. Even when you think you are asking a “stupid question,” odds are, someone else is thinking the exact same thing. Someone just needs to break the ice. Why can’t that person be you?
If you’re still fearing embarrassment by asking questions, try following these recommendations to give yourself a confidence boost.
- Google It!
Always be learning! And who better to learn from than the all-knowing Google machine? Google is always there to help.
Let’s break down an example. You find yourself part of a tech savvy team and when asked to graph specific statistics on an excel document, you’re completely lost and begin to panic. Before putting yourself in a vulnerable state in front of your coworkers, maybe instead you should Google it! See if you can find a video that will teach you how to navigate excel. There are millions of how-to videos on YouTube, so chances are, you will find one that helps you solve your problem. Even after finding video tutorials, you are still a bit lost, at least the video can give you helpful hints. Now, you can now ask more informed questions with confidence.
- Gauge Your Audience
In many cases, you’ll feel fulfilled and valued when you surround yourself with people who appreciate you. If you feel pressured and judged when asking certain questions, odds are, that audience is not your perfect match. You are the architect of your life and I challenge you to grow relationships with others that harbor a positive and supportive atmosphere where you rarely question yourself or feel insecure. With this supportive audience, any topic is free range and the opportunities for growth are endless.
It also helps to be encouraging to others when they ask tough questions. If you’re in a large group and hear a colleague ask a burning question, celebrate their confidence with something like, “thank you for asking that, I was curious about that, myself.” By building the confidence of others, you might also increase your own confidence.
- Practice, Practice, Practice
They say practice makes perfect and it’s absolutely true. The more you experience uncomfortable situations, the easier it becomes to handle them again in the future. Start with groups of friends, family or other people you trust. Try asking silly questions or questions with obvious or even embarrassing answers. Soon, you’ll feel more comfortable with asking questions in bigger scenarios.
Questions aren’t inherently stupid. Asking questions is essential to learning. Put your insecurities aside because like it or not, you will need to find answers to complete critical tasks. Stand your ground and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Remember that you are always growing, and you’re capable of the unimaginable.
And, if all else fails, you can always GOOGLE IT!