Think of a meeting where you wanted to ask a question or speak up but didn’t.
Maybe it was fear of judgment, fear of rejection or fear of being perceived as unintelligent that deterred you. You might have looked around in search of signs from others that confirmed your confusion, only to find none.
But a courageous soul asks the exact same question you’ve been percolating for several minutes, to which the boss responds with: “That’s a brilliant question!” Everyone is glad the question was asked, since the confusion was silently shared by many. The team is thankful for the intervention, but you are distracted by the resentment from not speaking up.
If you’ve experienced something similar, you are in the company of many. I call this, “inquisitive hesitancy.” Asking basic questions is no reason to feel exposed or experience the powerful psychological forces of the impostor syndrome, which typifies the invasive doubt that we feel if we perceive we lack the required knowledge, talents or skills.
We can relinquish ourselves of these feelings if we embrace and trust our inner voice. If your inner voice is curious, honor yourself with the exploration and speak up. Ask questions, make comments and seek understanding. If you do, you will not only advance your understanding, but will also nurture your inquisitive confidence.
This dynamic is manifested in team meetings and amplified when the boss asks for new ideas, opens the floor for questions or simply asks: “What do you think?”
As leaders we must be sensitive to the forces of this hesitancy, embrace all the questions asked by our staff and reinforce that the notion that questions are welcomed and necessary for progress.
Questions are the scaffolding to seek understanding. Learning begins with the question that we cannot answer, but as Plato, the Classical Greek philosopher noted, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.”
Ignorance is not a sign of vulnerability, but rather the foundation to help us frame relevant questions. Always remember that it is only when we admit that we do not know, that we give learning a chance. Speak up and let your curiosity resonate.