If you are afraid to ask questions at work, you need to ask yourself one question: Why?
Many people who dislike requesting information or assistance don’t want to appear dumb or incompetent. Or they don’t feel the question is important enough, and they’re afraid to bother someone else. In some companies or some situations, questions might not be welcome. On the other hand, some questions may be difficult because a lot is riding on the outcome, like a raise in pay or greater responsibility.
How Can You Get Over the Fear of Asking Questions at Work
Why it’s Important to Ask Questions
However, silencing a question has its own risks. Not knowing deadlines or details about a task could put the project or even your job in jeopardy. Without clarification, you might end up doing or not doing something that has serious consequences later.
Rather than making you appear unknowledgeable, asking the right questions of the right people could end up strengthening your professional relationships. Most people will feel flattered that you valued their opinion, knowledge base or skill set enough to approach them.
Says LinkedIn, “there is no such thing as a stupid question. There’s only the stupidity of NOT asking the question.”
How to Ask Questions Effectively
If asking questions makes you nervous, take things step by step. Decide on the exact question you need to ask, who you should ask and how and when you should ask. Also, consider any follow-up questions the answer to your first question might raise.
Pinpoint Your Pain Point
First, make sure you’ve done your best to resolve the question on your own. Does the answer lie in a project brief, email chain, or even on the internet? Researching the topic also might help you clarify your question.
If the answer is still unclear, try to pinpoint what exactly you find confusing. What are you really asking? The most effective question gets to the heart of the matter. You want your query to be clear and concise, not rambling and convoluted.
Decide the Best Person to Ask
Who is the best person to answer your question? It could be a colleague or supervisor, or you may have to contact another department or division. Sometimes, there’s no one within your organization who can answer your question and you’ll have to turn to outside professionals.
Plan Your Question
The kind of answer you are looking for – advice, knowledge, opinions, etc. – can determine what you ask and how you ask it.
Avoid leading questions that only attempt to support your own opinion. You’ll usually get farther asking open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer, notes Indeed.
Sometimes, a question is less about actual knowledge and more about finding a new approach. Talking through a problem strategically can give you the push you need to take your thoughts in a new direction.
“Sometimes asking the right question is just the thing to sharpen and shape your idea,” says Rachel Cooke for Quick and Dirty Tips. “Maybe a small tweak from a colleague could make your idea even better.”
Plan Your Approach
There are good times and bad times, good ways and bad ways to ask a question. A quick email might work for simpler questions, but larger questions deserve greater care. Make sure whomever you’re asking has time to listen. This may mean scheduling a meeting and giving them time to respond.
If you’re still uncomfortable, pay attention to how other people in your organization ask for clarification or help and model their approach.
Manage Your Response
After you ask, listen carefully to the answer and don’t interrupt their response.
“Question asking isn’t supposed to be a fast-paced conversation,” says BetterUp. “Pausing to listen between answers gives you time to think about what was said and ask better follow-up questions. Fast responses can mess with the conversation’s flow.”
As with many things, being prepared can help minimize your discomfort in asking for help. With planning and practice, you can gain the information you seek, strengthen your relationships with co-workers and set the stage for professional growth.
Questioning Your Career?
If the question you’ve been asking lately is “Where does my career go from here?” the job placement professionals at Pro Resources Staffing Services may have the answers you seek.