When you’re clueless about a topic, asking questions about it can make you feel dumb. However, despite how you feel, asking good questions actually makes you seem smarter. This video breaks down research that supports this very concept.
The video cites a recent study published in the journal Management Science, in which researchers conducted a couple of experiments that found subjects found other subjects more competent when they asked for advice on a project. According to the video:
Researchers think it’s because people love a good ego boost. When you ask someone for their advice in a challenging situation, it makes that person feels smart. If the person feels smart, they think highly of you. And if they think highly of you, it makes you feel good and confident. It’s a nice cycle of circular ego boosting.
There are caveats to this, which they bring up in the video. For example, you don’t want to ask for help on every little thing, because eventually, that does make you seem incompetent. Check out the full video for more detail.
How to Sound Smart When You Feel Dumb [New York Magazine (YouTube)]