Ask for advice and people will think that you are smart!



Asking other people for advice makes them think that you are smart! And yet, we often forgo the opportunity to ask questions for the fear of being perceived as incompetent or stupid. It’s something that we all have experienced, whether in the office, during a meeting, during a class at university, or while on a date.


We should ask more questions however: people who ask for advice tend to be more liked by others than those who don’t ask! That’s what researchers from the Harvard Business School have found out in a series of experiments that they conducted online and offline.


Francesca Gino and Alison Wood Brooks, two researchers from Harvard, conducted a linguistic analysis of an incredible amount of online chat conversations. They found out that people who were asking more questions than the average tended to be more liked by the person they were chatting with.


They found out that this holds true in real life situations as well. By analyzing the transcripts of conversations between 110 people on speed dates, they discovered that people who were asking more questions than  the average speed-dater were more likely to be invited on a second date. But why is it so?


Simply said, asking for advice is flattering. Asking questions puts us also in a position of  vulnerability . Thus, when you ask your boss, colleagues or date for advice, they feel special.


“They are asking for my advice because they trust me and think that I’m competent and smart!”


The Harvard researchers who conducted these experiments warn, however, that the rule does not always apply. For example, if the task at hand is really, really easy and you ask a question nonetheless, the perception of competence won’t be boosted. On the contrary, people will tend to perceive you as being less competent. The same applies when you ask a question to someone who does not have the expertise to answer it.


The previous findings should not scare you, however. In the majority of cases asking questions boosts the perception of competence. This is because in every situation there is a certain degree of complexity that justifies asking questions. It is always possible to ask for good advice, even if the problem at hand may seem simple and easy to solve!


So what are you waiting for?


Ask good questions and listen carefully next time you get invited to a job interview!


Source: Harvard Business Review (2016)