That’s the moment when questions are appropriate.
And it’s not easy.
In a recent blog post Seth Godin shared a similar idea regarding lifelong learning:
“Lifelong learning is never finished, and achieving the mindset isn’t easy, because the existing bias toward competence makes it socially unattractive. It requires us to acknowledge that we don’t know enough on our way to learning more.”
In a setting as a consultant, trainer and coach, the bias towards questions can be one of lacking competence or not being the right person.
Questions which serve to gain understanding can be perceived as challenging when they imply a shift in status. From being the person who is asked to assist, guide, help or “have the answers” the invitation is to shift the status to be the one not knowing and asking to learn.
The bias towards competence makes this shift a vulnerable one.
And yet, a lack of clarity can be our best tool.
Lack of clarity teaches us, that something has not yet been fully understood. May it be by us, may it be by the other. It’s an asset as we see that we don’t know and can act on it.
This can, for example, be when we share something without being clear on how well we understand its details. May it be because we haven’t understood them well enough or because we haven’t been yet been able to describe it. That often is where the best learning happens. As the person almost knows the gentle nudge towards more clarity transforms “almost know” into knowing. Clarity emerges.
The situation is different when one person knows and the other doesn’t. Then it becomes one person teaching the other and one person learning from the other. This creates a subtle dance of competence between teaching and learning competences. The learning will depend on each other’s commitment to engage in the process.
While we are able to help others with our knowledge, being precise and having an impact with our depends on our understanding of the other person’s situation. Clarity becomes key.
If we are being hired for our competence and our ability to deliver solutions or help to reach them then our work consists in gaining the most complete understanding of the client’s work and needs. This clarity is what allows us to excel. While the methods may vary, this is valid for coaches, trainers, and consultants.
Serving others works better with curiosity and the ambition to gain clarity.