Why Do We Find It So Embarrassing To Ask Questions? Just Asking!

In a recent article by Fern Cotton she talked about her habit of ‘pretending’ that she always knows what people are talking about when in reality she has ‘no idea’ - I laughed. This behaviour isn’t exclusive to Fern - I do it all the time as I suspect do most of you.

How many times do you nod along with work colleagues who are discussing a previous work project that you weren’t involved with, didn’t gen up on and don’t know the other contributors? Or agree with friends about how good a recent movie or TV programme was when in reality you fell asleep halfway through and haven’t had time to catch up yet and just hope they don’t ask you too much detail about it? I am in a book club and often when we are sitting around discussing a plot twist it is obvious at least half the group haven’t read the book, just the publishers blurb, but very few own up. When people use a word we don’t understand or describe a procedure that completely baffles us why don’t we stop them and ask them to explain? When we are young we bombard our elders with Why? When? What? and don’t give up until we’ve go an answer so why are we so reluctant to admit when we simply have ‘no clue’?

Is it embarrassment that we feel we should know but don’t? Do we think it reflects badly on our level of education? Do we feel that by not knowing something it makes us inferior and gives others the upper hand? Are we frightened of looking silly? Is it lack of confidence? All of which, when we think about it, is nonsense. No-one is expected to know everything and there is no shame in not knowing. 

Some days we are firing on all cylinders and our brains are like sponges soaking everything up and filing appropriately and some days our brains are more like sieves. If knowledge and information hasn’t embedded in your ‘on board computer’ or you have never been exposed to that information before don’t ‘nod along’ put your hand up, acknowledge the gap in your understanding and ask for an explanation. For many people, asking for support is difficult. We judge ourselves and view it as a sign of weakness. We expect to be happy and to act as if there's nothing wrong. If we're in pain and could use some extra support but don't ask for it, we become unable to handle what life throws our way. The reality, though, is that asking for support is a sign of strength, a sign of courage. It's where growth, openness and valor occur.

Life is a continuous learning curve, we all love sharing our knowledge and experiences so don’t worry about asking others. The wisest people don’t define themselves by what they know but by what they can offer others.

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve picked up is this: it’s okay to not know things - to admit that we don’t understand. Sure, that’s a vulnerable place to be, but it’s worth it for the personal growth that comes with not knowing” - Fern Cotton