There are (at least) two ways to make a fool of yourself in front of your boss. Way No. 1: Pepper them with questions after they give you an assignment, especially ones that you could easily look up on your own. Way No. 2: Don’t ask any questions after they give you an assignment, so that what you end up turning in is incomplete or otherwise not what they wanted.
The happy medium here is figuring out how to solicit your boss’ help in a way that makes you look even more competent.
According to Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, an etiquette and civility expert and the author of “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom,” if you’re confused about the details of an assignment, you’ve got a few options.
“Ask your boss if there’s another way of putting it,” Randall said. So you might say something like: “I’m not understanding. Is there a different way that you can explain this to me?”
In other words, what you shouldn’t do is ask your boss to repeat the same explanation they have given you twice already.
If you are making a request for clarification, make sure you come prepared with specific questions and potential solutions. Trying to solve problems is a good trait in any employee, Randall said.
Alternatively, you could ask your boss: “Is there anyone else who perhaps has done this before?” Working with a coworker might be less stressful, especially if your boss tends to get impatient.
Interestingly, research suggests that asking people for advice can make you seem more competent in the eyes of the adviser. That’s likely because you make the person feel good about themselves, and so they feel good about you in turn.
But remember: Don’t wait until the day before the project deadline to ask for help. That doesn’t show responsibility, Randall said.
Be sure to apologise for taking their time, and avoid making excuses or blaming them for making the assignment hard to understand.
It won’t necessarily be comfortable to admit that you’re confused, but you’ll feel a whole lot better when you’re able to find the solution you need.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider