Technology is the area where I most freely ask for advice or admit I don’t know something. I’m not afraid of looking stupid because I’m “a dinosaur” and am not expected to know much about how modern devices work. No one is surprised or shaming when I ask because social norms say my generation is not supposed to be tech-savvy. As a result of this liberation, I ask often and have learned a lot.

I think what limits people from this exchange of knowledge on other topics is the hesitation on the part of the asker not the respondent. The hang-ups people have about appearing incompetent or uninformed cause them to feign wisdom that they don’t have or to spend unnecessary time trying to figure something out on their own. It’s not that others wouldn’t freely assist on topics other than technology; it’s that people craft excuses in their own mind about why not to ask.

To create an environment of trust, break the stereotype that those in charge are “supposed” to know the answers. Take the lead in asking for assistance or sharing that you don’t know something. Admit when you messed up and need someone to help you figure out why. Be vulnerable enough to say that you need to learn how to do something, even if it may seem obvious or basic to others. Saying “I don’t know” is the fastest way to accumulate that knowledge. Be brave enough to raise your hand.

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