To Be More Effective, Ask Questions

Have you ever noticed that people could be much more effective if they would just ask for clarification?

A student of mine came up after I had handed back an exam and said “I don’t see why I lost these points (pointing to his score on a question).  I didn’t really understand this question, so I answered it the way I thought you meant it.”  Since the exam was a take home exam and he had a week to work on it, I asked “Why didn’t you contact me and ask for clarification like I said you could?  Numerous other students did.”  He replied, “I didn’t want to bother you.”

How often have you see people do work when they were unclear or uncertain about what they needed do or how and then hide behind an excuse like “I didn’t know”, “they didn’t tell me”, or even “I didn’t want to bother you”?  It is difficult to perform effectively when you are unclear about what is to be done.  And yes, there are people who can make asking for clarification uncomfortable.  But is avoiding the momentary discomfort of asking really worth the poor performance and damage to a reputation that comes with it?  Apparently the answer is “yes” for people like my student.

If you want to be more effective, it pays to have an understanding conversation when you are unclear or uncertain. A reputation for effectiveness is worth asking questions for.

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