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At Work - The Issue Of People Asking Questions That They Should Already Know

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bluefortress | 13:08 Wed 29th May 2024 | Jobs & Education
12 Answers

I tend to think a lot about past negative experiences. Obviously I have had many positive experiences at work but a negative one in particular has given me a bit of a long term complex. 

I was a student on placement sone recent years ago. Had many of them but one in particular gave some feedback to the tutor that I was anxious and was asking a lot of questions that I should already know. 

I was wary from then on and stopped asking, a staff member from same placement said that I should appear more interested, ask some questions etc. 

I informed her of my feedback and she went quiet before saying 'you need to get the balance right' 

This is true. Whenever I start a new job now though I feel very wary/almost embarrassed of asking things. If I am unsure I am always wondering what the right balance is and how to ask the question in the right way. I feel this contemplation and indecisiveness to ask delays my progress  

My cousin gave me a good tip she said if it's something I'm almost certain of but wanted to double check always start the sentence as 'I'm pretty sure it's this, but just wanted to triple check...'

I am sure most of you have had jobs, do you ever find the above to be an issue and how do you get round it?




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If you wish to learn or confirm something just ask, and note.


Balance will sort itself out if you note answers given.

I think the idea of 'things you should already know' is bogus - if you knew, you wouldn't be asking, and the idea that someone thinks you should know is simply their opinion.

Try not to dwell on this too much.

If you need to know, ask, but maybe try and spread your questions around to different colleagues.

Keep a note of what you asked, who you asked, and the reply, and then, if you need further clarification, you can make a decision whether  you are comfortable checking with the first colleague again, or maybe asking someone else who may explain something differently, and help you to understand.

The golden rule when learning anything, is to ask at the time if you don't understand.

Personally, I trained loads of people on different tasks in my career, and my first statement was the same every time - 

"I don't expect you to remember anything I tell you, by this time tomorrow.

It will take time for this to sink in, and if you are not sure, or you have forgotten, ask.

You can ask me as many times as you need to, until you understand and remember.

I have endless patience, and I'd rather you ask and get it right, than not ask and get it wrong."

I believe that takes the worry out of learning something, and the thought you will be thought of as stupid or difficult if you needed to ask.

But that's just me, everyone is different - but hopefully you will find more of your colleagues have my approach than your previous insensitive interaction.

Worrying and being unsure is built in to learning anything, we are all human, and you don't know what you don't know until you ask - so ask away, and try not to worry.

Good luck.


Question Author

Thanks Andy, I have worked with people who use your approach and it makes so much difference, I actually feel more relaxed and probably learn more quickly as the mental energy goes into learning rather than worrying what others think. 

Some would probably say that there is a line when answers will be obvious but everyone has different experiences and who knows there might even be something that the learner knows that the teacher doesn't  





What I also used to say was -

I'm a great believer in making everyone's life as easy as possible, especially mine! So if you can think of a way to do this easier, or quicker, I'd be delighted to hear it. 

who knows there might even be something that the learner knows that the teacher doesn't  

o god dont even go there !  -  for a start the teacher has to accept  that the learners opinion is correct. This is such an uphill task ('labour of Sisyphus) that I wdnt bother

Peter - Why do you post discouraging nonsense in answer to a genuine question.

Question Author

I wouldn't and have never said this out loud to an educator Peter.

My point was that we always tend assume this one directional process ie the teacher has all the knowledge and the learner knows much less therefore cant contribute. However I think sometimes students have had different experiences on other placements etc so could possibly share ideas


Hi Andy - BlueF seems to have got the gist - - dont say anything and or correct you teacher

It is NOT a two way process. 

It is an interesting q  - why do people say " you should know this!" rather than the shorter " The answer is X" ?

... your teacher...( typo)

ANDY, what would you do if the same questions had been asked many times?

At what point would you think the person isn't retaining the same information already given on multiple occasions and might not be suitable for whatever job he or she is meant to be doing?

Peter - Why do you post discouraging nonsense in answer to a genuine question.

because I am not as bright or as well-educated as you, Andy. But you really always knew that, didnt you?

Thought a bit about it- - asking too many questions can only be  a put-down. Why would someone whose job was to answer qq, say " you are asking too many?"

Also here as in Life, you get put downs, when people dont like you, not because you are wrong/too asky

Here is my primary school French Master. He didnt like me much ( at all) and was furious that nonetheless I remained good at French. Usually the pupil loses interest if the teacher is picky, corrective and uninspiring. It took me around 20 y to  realise that he just didnt like me. I thought at the time in my childish way that teachers were employed er to teach - everyone. Ho hum how I learnt!

Oh him: 1963, we were doing parts of the body and the Great Man said - "the French for knee is la patelle, I have no idea why" - and I said: because the Latin is Patella

My first learner teaches teacher? nope I had already asked matron what the only liquid metal is. ( mercury) Jesus Matron was NOT pleased. Home learning environment is NOT the same as Prep school

BUT I did wonder why the learning was intentionally made such a chore for the learner

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