I love having conversations with people I respect, look up to and know are an expert on a subject I’m interested in (and usually ten others besides).
Every now and again I’ll find myself nodding sagely as they reference some great wonder, piece of writing, language, blog, book, person that they assume I know about.
There’s a good reason that I nod along…
I don’t want to interrupt the flow of what they’re saying, it’s interesting and I want them to continue uninterrupted as I take what they’re saying on board.
There’s also a bad reason…
My intellectual ego is seeking their respect and validation. It’s preventing me from admitting that I’m struggling to comprehend.
Unfortunately in a group situation, this momentum can carry us too far. Once the thread has reached a suitable stopping point, how often are we willing to go back and ask for an explanation, more context or admit that we “don’t know” something that someone else assumed we do.
Watch out for rooms full of people listening to something they don’t understand and nodding, not wanting to interrupt and secretly not willing to be the first in the room to break the seal on their lack of knowledge.
What time do we waste walking away not understanding the full picture and having thrown away the best opportunity to seek clarity?
When you don’t know the answer or don’t understand, don’t pretend. Lead by example and others will also be encouraged to ask or research and share. This in turn will build a stronger knowledge culture for your teams.
There’s no such thing as a dumb question. If you thought of something to ask in a room full of people I guarantee at least one other person will have as well.
Avoid playing intellectual chicken, be proud to ask the first dumb question of the day and get people to respect your intellectual humility rather than your intellectual ego!