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Office Life

Stop stressing over asking dumb questions at work – do these 3 things instead

It’s easy to feel insecure when you have a whole lot of trouble asking questions at work, but you don’t have to. Here’s what to do instead.

Just be yourself

Patrick Allan, a Lifehacker staff writer, video host, film producer and more, gives specific, casual examples on the site about how “we’re often far too concerned with what other people think we know,” and how we try to bridge the gap by learning more, or lying about knowledge we actually don’t have.

After explaining the pitfalls of this approach, he writes that you should just be upfront about how unfamiliar you are with the topic and start asking away.

“You retain your genuineness because you’re being honest, you don’t look like a fool that’s bogging down the conversation with your lack of knowledge, and lastly, you actually open yourself up to learning something,” Allan writes. “But most importantly, people like you more when you ask questions. We love to feel knowledgeable on a subject, and what we love even more is to be the ones to share that knowledge. It makes us feel useful and heard.”

Give yourself something to work with first

This can really help take the edge off.

Katie Douthwaite Wolf, now a content strategist at Right Source Marketing, writes in The Muse about how you should “start with what you know” after doing some learning first.

“Assuming you do some prior research or clarify at least part the answer on your own, you should now have a vague idea of the specific information you’re looking for. Maybe you’re not sure how an entire website is coded, but you at least know that your company uses PHP — so use that to frame your question. Instead of asking a programmer ‘Uh, what’s all this gibberish?’ you can ask ‘I’m vaguely familiar with PHP, but could you explain the elements of the new site feature in layman’s terms?’ ” she writes.

Don’t just ask blindly

This is never, ever a good idea — especially at work.

Margie Warrell, author of Stop Playing Safe, told The Washington Post about why this is important.

“You wouldn’t want to ask why your colleague was promoted over you at a team meeting. Also be aware of timing. The day after you’re told your project is over budget and behind deadline probably isn’t the time to ask about that pay raise,” she told the site.

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