Why We Don’t Ask
In my previous post, I looked at the importance of asking questions. We discovered that almost nothing in life will land in your lap without you having to ask for it. We saw how asking questions forms an important part of our professional and personal lives.
Since asking questions is so important, why do we shy away?
In his book, Axiom, experienced Pastor and business leader, Bill Hybels, encourages leaders to make the big ask. He shows how asking people to rise to a challenge or to give their time, money or effort can lead to incredible results. However, he also shows why it might be difficult to ask.
For leaders, asking someone to do something involves risking your credibility. If people say no, it can feel like a blow to your leadership or worse, can negatively affect your relationships with people. I would suggest that for professionals too, fear or embarassment or a loss of credibility will be just as big a factor in holding us back from asking questions.
Professional translators and interpreters might not be always viewed as leaders but the stakes can be just as high. We might fear that if we ask for help or clarification, our clients will think that we are incapable and not work with us again. We might fear that if we approach a new client, we might have to cope with rejection. We might fear that if we ask for payment, we could anger the client and end up with nothing at all.
On the other hand, asking questions might be seen as humiliating. So, on top of the fear issues we may have to deal with pride. After all, if you ask a question it shows that you don’t know something. It means having to admit that, while you might know a lot about one kind of translation, you know much less about another kind. In short, asking questions means admitting your shortcomings.
So what is the way out of this? How do we conquer our fear and pride and reap the benefits of asking questions?
This might seem simplistic but really, there is only one way: start asking anyway!
I admit that learning to ask questions has taken me some time. For me, it all started when I read a book by John C. Maxwell, where he mentioned that whenever he reads a book that impacts him, he writes to the author to thank them. I took this a step further and started thanking authors and asking them one question about their work. It could be anything from where they go the idea to how other people have responded.
What I learned was that, rather than my questions being an annoyance, in many cases they were welcomed by the authors concerned. My simple questions gave them the opportunity to talk more about something that excited them.
In this case, I had started with low risk questions in low risk situations. The positive response from these questions gave me the confidence to start asking questions that were a bit tougher and to ask questions in higher risk situations. Like most things in life, they key was to start small. Perhaps it’s something you can try too.