There are many, many times we can feel confused at work. It’s usually when simple instructions are lost in complex terminology and meetings are muddled with flow charts and jargon. Not to mention the 100-slide presentations where everybody is lost after slide 14.
But do we speak up and voice that confusion? The fear of looking stupid, incompetent or weak often holds us back. But there’s actually quite a lot of power in being confused and even more when we talk about it.
Let’s take a look at why confusion is more than ok and how you can use it to your advantage:
- It earns you respect
Because we link confusion to feelings of shame or inadequacy, we shy away from admitting it. But saying it out loud can actually be a bold and powerful move, one that will make people look up to you and show that you want to understand things thoroughly – a key quality in a leader.
Say clearly and firmly with good posture and eye contact, ‘Sorry, I’m not sure what you mean by this. Could you explain it in a bit more detail please?’ – start by saying it in a smaller one-on-one setting to ease yourself into it. Then, when you feel more comfortable, try it in meetings.
- It brings people together
So you’re midway through a meeting and someone says, ‘well, there are a lot of moving parts within the structural analysis of the company’s robust learning systems’ – and you’re there thinking, ‘There’s what in the what now?’
Then you spot a colleague looking just as nonplussed as you. So you go over and see if you can help each other out.
‘I noticed you looked as confused as me when he mentioned the learning systems. What do you think he meant?’ – and thus a connection is made, ideas are shared and you feel a bit less alone in your confusion.
- It creates a safe space for discussion
There’s nothing quite like the silence after someone asks, ‘Any questions?’ or the collective sigh of relief when someone answers, ‘Yes, I’m a bit confused’. If you’re ever feeling a bit clueless, chances always are you’re not alone. By saying it out loud, the atmosphere becomes relaxed and people feel more at ease to share their thoughts.
‘I’m not sure if others feel the same, but I was a bit unsure about x. Does anyone else have other thoughts on this?’ – simply saying this opens the door to different ideas and solutions.
- It encourages more in-depth, collaborative thinking
When faced with something complex and baffling at work, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stuck. But instead of overthinking how confused you are, why not tackle the subject head-on and really sink your teeth into it? This total focus means you’ll have a deeper understanding of the topic. Better yet, ask a colleague for their help too.
‘Hi Sarah, I know you specialise in this and I’m a bit confused about it. Could you explain it to me in a bit more detail please?’ – again, this forges a connection with a co-worker and gives you a unique insight on the topic.
- It gives you a rush
This is the moment when everything clicks – after trying to get your head around something particularly confusing and you suddenly get it. You feel elated and a sense of achievement at learning something new. Being confused led you to this point – in that way confusion is never something to be ashamed of, it’s taught you the value of knowledge and discovery.
How to *special edition*:
We’re gonna flip this around and give you some pointers on how to be more clear and less confusing to others:
Presentations – keep them short, concise and to the point. The less text on a slide the better and don’t be afraid to use visuals. We have an interesting presentation course if you want to know more.
Meetings – if you’re leading it, avoid using jargon and complex terms. Just stick to the objective and talk like you normally would. Here are some pointers for better video meetings if you’re interested.
Email – speak like a human and keep it short. Don’t know how? Take a look over here.
Hopefully next time you feel confused it will be different, because you know exactly what to do.