For me, there is little worse than not understanding what’s going on. Being confused at work is frustrating and stressful. Whether it’s a matter of logistics or objectives, when you don’t fully understand your work there is little chance of performing up to standards. At best, there is a delay in your work, and at worst your value at the company is reevaluated.
While this confusion in an office can be due to larger issues of ineffective communication, it usually comes down to the individual not speaking up. Other times we don’t even realize miscommunication has taken place until it’s too late. You’ve written the report. And now you have to rewrite it.
So what can we do? Let’s take a little wisdom from an old Spanish philosopher:
“Teach thy tongue to say, “I do not know,” and thous shalt progress.” – Maimonides
It’s tempting to want to look like we know we’re doing when we don’t, especially at work when we want to bring our best. But if we don’t swallow our pride and admit that we don’t have the answers, we won’t have room to learn and grow.
Remember, it’s better to ask stupid questions upfront rather than produce poor work later. Here’s some key phrases to practice:
- “I don’t understand.”
- “Can you explain that in more detail.”
- “I’m not sure what this is supposed to look like.
- “Can you give me an example?”
- “Could you help me?”
- “Just so we’re clear …”
How has saying “I don’t know” helped you at work?
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