The following article is part of a series of articles about our NerdWallet Internship program. Lucy Yu shared their experience as an software engineer intern. If you are curious about joining NerdWallet as an intern or full-time employee, please apply for one of our open positions!
Asking questions can be scary, especially as an intern. It never feels like the right time or place, and no one wants to ask a “dumb question” and appear stupid. Little do people know about the importance of asking questions. There are many sources that claim we do not ask enough questions in our lives. To ask questions is good for your own knowledge growth and it allows you to become a better team member.
Reluctance Around Asking Questions
People are scared to ask questions due to numerous reasons. These reasons can be summed up as a lack of self-confidence and trust in your own knowledge. However, it is important to remember that no one knows everything and people are often just as confused as you are.
Pluralistic ignorance is one of these reasons for people avoiding questions. Pluralistic ignorance is defined as “a psychological state characterized by the belief that one’s private thoughts are different from those of others” (https://fs.blog/2013/05/pluralistic-ignorance/). This means we do not ask questions because we believe that we are the only ones who are confused. This is often not the case and this video (https://fs.blog/2013/05/pluralistic-ignorance/) shows a prime example of that. The video depicts a professor rambling about a bunch of nonsense and no one in the class thinks to raise their hand to ask a question. We have all likely been in positions like that but were too afraid to ask a question because we feel like we are the only ones who were not understanding. However, it is very apparent that most people probably feel the exact same way as you do at that moment.
As a result, there is a high chance no one will think you’re dumb because they likely have the same questions but are too afraid to ask. In fact, when you ask questions, you simply appear more willing to learn and no one will judge you on that. When you ask questions you can easily improve your knowledge, but you also help others in clarifying things as well as set an environment to make them more comfortable in asking questions.
Power of Questions
People are afraid to ask questions for fear of judgement yet by simply asking questions, you can strengthen many interpersonal bonds and set a much better impression. By frequently asking questions your team can function and collaborate better.
The more questions you pose, the more others will want to talk to you because you appear genuinely interested in what they have to say. This creates stronger relationships because bonds are strengthened when you feel comfortable sharing with each other. This also allows more effective communication between team members. In addition, questions allow the team to have better knowledge sharing which in turn creates opportunities for members to help each other out when needed. Introducing questions can also introduce aspects that someone may have not previously considered. When a person is explaining an answer, it often unlocks ideas that were previously looked over.
Moreover, when you ask questions, you set an impression of being willing to learn and being proactive. This will incline people to want to work with you and make you more impressionable in general. As a result, you can be opened to many new possibilities. After all, you will never get anything you don’t personally ask for. Also, you will never really be penalized for asking about or for something. The worst thing that could happen is someone refuses to answer or you get rejected. However, when you do ask, you open a world of opportunities. You can use questions as a means to negotiate or to create more opportunities for yourself.
Improving Your Confidence to Ask Questions
Being able to ask questions boils down to self-confidence. I have compiled some tips that helped me in building confidence in this area.
- Practice Practice Practice
Everything boils down to good practice. Knowing when to ask questions and what types of questions to ask is a skill that must be practiced. If you never ask questions, you will never get better at doing so. It can be beneficial to start with simple questions and adjust as you grow. When practicing, focus on the type of questions you are asking, the tone in which you are asking, the sequence of the questions, and how you are framing the question.
- Prepare questions beforehand
If given the opportunity, it may help to familiarize yourself with the context and prepare some questions ahead of time. This will help you feel more comfortable asking the questions because you will not feel as lost and you can rely on the fact that you did your research. So if you are confused, you’ll know it is not due to your carelessness, but rather, the information was not present.
- People often like to share
It is important to remember we are social creatures and we like to talk. This is especially true when you are given a presentation or lesson. When you ask questions, you allow the presenter to also better gauge your understanding and tailor their content to benefit you. Presenters are likely excited to share what they have learned and by asking questions, you indirectly give feedback to the presenter that you were interested by their presentation.
In conclusion, you are in charge of your growth, be sure to capitalize on it because you will only get what you ask for. You will never be penalized for asking a question and chances are, you are not the only person who has that question. It is the best way for you to learn and you should never shy away from improving yourself.