When people are confused, I have seen some choose to not ask a clarifying question. Most of the time, that aversion comes out of fear of being embarrassed for asking. You don’t know even that?
I’m not like that. To me, if I’m confused, I have enough confidence in myself to know that the person who is explaining the thing to me is at least partially to blame. I’m confused because you aren’t explaining it well.
I recently had a bad experience with a colleague. New to the particular environment and task, I asked him for clarification, wanting to learn and be helpful to him and the rest of our team as soon as I could. Instead of answering my question, he got defensive and told me, “don’t be confused.”
That was a really strange way to respond. I mean, that’s like telling someone who’s in pain to not hurt. “Don’t be hurt.”
The thing is, I don’t want to be confused - that’s precisely why I asked a question to clarify.
To me, being defensive and unwilling to give a real answer to someone asking “why” is unacceptable behaviour in a professional setting. It hinders your teammate’s growth, which at the end of the day means stifling the growth of your team or organisation as a whole. And unacceptable behaviour must be called out, lest they fester into a cultural norm.
So I stood my ground, unapologetic for being confused. I gave him feedback face to face, away from other people, but he either couldn’t understand the problem or his ego prevented him from changing directions.
The whole experience turned my exercise in the Army into a nightmare for me, and I believe, him too.
My point with recounting this story is this: you shouldn’t feel sorry for being confused. It’s most likely not your fault.
In my opinion, it’s only your fault if you fail to ask clarifying questions to get out of the confusion.
Asking to clarify is a sign of strength, not weakness. Unsure? Ask. Keep clarifying!