Thursday, April 8, 2010

Never Be Afraid To Ask

Several years ago, I was sitting on the front row in an Executive MBA classroom. Maryann, a few rows back, was explaining a concept related to the application of technology in her work as a Business Systems Consultant.

As Maryann spoke I recognized repetition of a certain TLA.[1] In fact she used this TLA so frequently that I began to suspect that it might be integral to what she was explaining. The problem was: I had no idea what those three letters stood for!

Being no match for Maryann’s technological expertise, I naturally did what you might do. I quietly leaned to the woman on my left and asked: “What does ‘TLA’ stand for?” She shrugged and whispered: “I don’t know.” I then shifted to my right and asked the same question of the man sitting there. Same response.

Next I did something that took great courage, and defies all human logic: I raised my hand and asked the question. Maryann graciously obliged, and much to my surprise, nearly seventy percent of the classroom simultaneously expressed appreciation for their newfound knowledge. And I thought I was the only one who didn’t understand!

Here I was, sitting in a room full of brilliant people, and no one dared to ask! Why is it that we sometimes risk ignorance in order to maintain appearances?

I have, of course, since learned that the best and brightest people we encounter in life are never afraid to ask for clarification when they don’t understand something. Hmm, I guess maybe that’s how they came to be the best and brightest among us!

[1] A ‘TLA’ is a three letter acronym for ‘Three Letter Acronym’. I credit my friend Steve Outhouse for sharing this clever tidbit with me. I use it here generically, for demonstration purposes.