Just Ask

Six months ago, while I was in hot pursuit of the Business Development Manager position at SmallBox, I received an email from Sara McGuyer, our Chief Culture Officer.  She was inviting me to interview, and I was doing the happy dance around my kitchen floor.  I stopped dancing long enough to re-read her email and caught this little ditty —

“For ease of planning — we enjoy a casual workplace environment.” 

GASP!  That sounded a lot like, “Go ahead and wear jeans to the interview”, only not exactly.  My professional sensibilities rebelled. I knew this math. Job interview = suit. Unless the Chief Culture Officer says it doesn’t, and it seemed pretty obvious that she was saying just that!

I instantly went into vacillation mode and for the next week I panicked and pondered over how to straddle the fashion fence between professional and casual at a job interview. Naturally, I turned to my most trusted advisors for their advice. (husband, daughter, best friends). They all had great advice, but none of it was the same advice. So I changed my mind like I changed my clothes — easy and often!  Then one brilliant friend uttered these simple, but life changing words, “Why don’t you just ask her?”

Seems simple enough. Just Ask!

Why is it that we find it so hard to ask? To ask questions. To ask for help. To ask directions or ask forgiveness?  I’m asking — and I think I may already have the answer. Fear — plural.

Fear of appearing less intelligent or incompetent. Fear of seeming unsure or ill-prepared.  Fear of losing control of the situation or losing face. For some unknown reason (maybe because we haven’t asked), we have it in our heads that we’re supposed to have all the answers. So we feel our way around in the dark, afraid that someone may find out that we don’t. As if by asking a question we are, in some way, surrendering the upper hand. When in truth, asking a question can lighten the path and lighten the load.

Maybe it’s time we give ourselves a break and recognize that wisdom starts with knowledge and knowledge starts with curiosity.

“I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein

When you were a kid in school, you raised your hand not only when you knew the answer, but also when you had a question. Maybe because kids are naturally curious (and fearless), they go through the first 10 years of life always raising their hands. Now, think about how much a kid learns from birth to ten. You see where I’m going? My thirteen year old, whenever I attempt to give him advice or instruction, almost by reflex, answers, “I know”. And sometimes he does. But often he doesn’t, and I have to remind him that learning something now means he’ll know it forever and that it’s okay not to know. But that it’s not okay to keep on not knowing because you’re too prideful (or afraid) to ask for the answer or ask for help.

Imagine how much more productive and creative we could be at work if we removed the obstacles of fear that keep us from raising our hands and reaching for answers. In the google search world we live in, where questions disguised as searches are  as common as keystrokes, and Siri has all the answers, shouldn’t it be okay to just ask a question? Let’s stop introducing completely reasonable questions as stupid questions? Stupid people don’t ask questions.  They’re not looking for knowledge or wisdom. They’re looking for directions.

I’ve been learning a lot about how curiosity and courage go together lately  They’re two of the four core values at SmallBox, where I now work and wear jeans every day.  The other two are creativity and persistence, which might explain why I’m sitting at my kitchen counter at 1am writing a blog post for #ThinkKit.

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One thought on “Just Ask

  1. Dear Dawn,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of The Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “Just Ask.” It’s beautifully written and provocative. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because it sheds light on a ubiquitous and problematic culture we’ve created here in the U.S., especially as it pertains to the workplace. Asking questions is hard, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: we could be much more productive and collaborative, if only we had the courage to ask questions. If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story and share it with the project.

    You have my email address and website (although please note the site is still under development with plans to officially launch it this January). I hope to hear from you soon.

    Warm regards,
    Ashlee
    http://www.youshareproject.com
    ashlee@youshareproject.com

    Like

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