clarification_to_avoid_setbacks.jpg“He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask is a fool forever,” a popular Chinese proverb goes. But it’s so often those five minutes of foolishness that we find daunting, especially in our professional lives, where we want to appear knowledgeable and competent at all times. Yet this reluctance to clarify things with your staff, colleagues, or bosses can be something of a roadblock to success, says career blogger Kristi Hedges.

In her Forbes.com blog entryFive Mistakes That Are Holding You Back,” Hedges explains that failing to ask for clarification “comes up in my work with executives, and it’s evidenced across levels. We walk around with a lot of confusion about what we’re actually supposed to deliver that can be clarified if we simply ask.”

She points out that the reason for this is that no one wants to look incompetent in front of their superiors. “So what happens?” she writes. “We waste time guessing, miss the mark too frequently, and create more work for everyone.”

And it’s true: not clarifying something from the beginning can lead to wasted time and effort should there be a misunderstanding, and it can have long-lasting repercussions for not just you, but the people you work with as well. But, Hedges points out, this is easily remedied. “If you don’t understand what success looks like, ask for clarification, specifics or examples. If you ask well-informed questions, you’ll look a whole lot smarter than if you execute incorrectly.” Poor execution can then lead to time-consuming fixes or even do-overs, which can be as costly for your company as they are frustrating for you.

On the flip side, you should also try to make sure that you are clear in your own communications or invite others to ask you questions if they are unsure about any points they need to work on in case you have colleagues who are themselves shy about asking for clarification.

[Click here to read up on all five mistakes that could be holding you back on Forbes.com]


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(Photo by Walt Stoneburner via Flickr Creative Commons)
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