As I have been working with many different mentors and helpers over the past few months, I have learned to acknowledge my own ignorance. I have also learned that there’s a difference between being willfully ignorant and unknowingly ignorant and that most of us are the latter. Once we are aware of our ignorance, we must also become aware that we will have some stupid questions to ask before we can rid ourselves of it.
Here’s a scenario: you’re meeting with your mentor/supervisor/boss, and you have a question for them that you’re afraid to ask. You think it’s stupid and they’ll give you flack for not knowing the answer to it or using common sense to just figure it out. So, you don’t ask the question, and you go on to do the task that the issue was associated with. Because you didn’t ask the question, you mess up the job and then your mentor/supervisor/boss is actually upset with you. You explain that you didn’t understand a specific component of the task and they say “why didn’t you just ask?”
I’ve been in this situation more than once, and it is just as humiliating the fifth time as the first. Probably more so, because then I realize that I didn’t learn anything from the previous four times it happened. Now, I understand that it’s better to ask an ignorant question and look like an idiot in front of your supervisor than make your supervisor look like an idiot in front of someone more important like a client or customer.
You should also realize that whoever you want an answer from probably won’t think your question is stupid, especially if you’re still learning. The reason you are assigned bosses or mentors or supervisors is so you can ask questions and learn how to do your work correctly. If they get upset with you for being curious or wanting to do something well, they’re the asshole, not you.
Ask your stupid questions, especially if they’ll help your work. Good, hardworking people have respect for those that are willing to admit their own ignorance and seek help. Learning from others is one of the best ways to become proficient in something. Ask questions, get as much information as possible, let yourself look stupid. If you ask a stupid question today, you won’t make a stupid mistake tomorrow.
Take this advice with a grain of salt. There are times when it’s better to learn through your own action and accept that you may make a mistake. There are also questions that can be answered through search engines or forum questions. Your assigned help shouldn’t be the first option you go to for answers, but they should be fairly high on the list. Eventually, through their support and your own determination to rid yourself of ignorance, you’ll stop asking stupid questions. On the other hand, if you’re too afraid to look a little stupid, then you’re probably too afraid to take more serious risks that are necessary to succeed.