I often talk to young lawyers who hesitate to ask questions at work.
They have a fear that if they ask questions, the partners are going to believe that they don’t know what they’re doing.
The problem is: you are a young lawyer and you don’t know what you’re doing yet.
You must to ask questions in order to learn, improve and grow as a lawyer. And part of being a partner is answering those questions that you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Do Your ABCs
So we need to work through the beliefs that are actually hindering you from asking those questions and let’s go through the ABCs to get you there.
A: Your Activating event is that you have a question or you unsure about something.
B: Your beliefs are “If I ask you a question then they’re going to believe that I don’t know what I’m doing.” and “They’re going to believe that I’m not a good lawyer.”
C: Your consequences are you’re going to feel anxiety every time you’re unsure about something. As a result of that anxiety, you’re going to avoid working on the assignment. You’re going to procrastinate. You’re going to go on Facebook and Instagram. You going to waste time. And you’re going to complete the assignment, but it’s not going to be exactly what the partner asked for.
Or you are going to wait until the very last minute to ask for clarification and not have as much time as you would like to complete the assignment. Then, you may turn in work that is not at the level of completion that you’d like it to be and not at the highest quality as you would like because you didn’t give yourself enough time.
Dispute Your Beliefs
First, ask yourself what you’re making this mean about you.
You are afraid that the partners are going to believe specific things about you. They’re going to believe that you don’t know what you’re doing and they’re going to believe that you’re not a good lawyer.
The reason you’re so afraid of this is because internally you believe that you are not a good lawyer.
And you believe that if other people share this belief, that it will somehow be true.
And so you must become aware of the fear and accept that it is holding you back.
Other people are not responsible for that belief. You are. And you must take responsibility for that belief before you can move forward. Otherwise, you are just going to keep recreating the same cycle of avoidance, procrastination and fear.
Worse Case Scenario
What is the worst thing that’s going to happen as a result of me taking this action?
You may ask the question and the partner may get upset. The partner may tell everybody else that you don’t know what you’re doing. That you’re a bad lawyer. You could get fired. Now you can’t pay your rent, you get evicted and you end up by the river under a bridge by the Hudson River.
That is usually my worst case scenario. Once I run through it, I realized how ridiculous it is. And I realize that that is not going to happen because I asked a question.
What is Your Preferred Outcome?
You want to ask the question so that you can complete your assignment. You want the information and knowledge necessary to move forward in your career. And that is very important because you need to identify a much bigger “why.”
Why is this so important to me?
It is important because every time you ask a question and every time you gain knowledge, you move forward in your career. You build more confidence. You don’t have to ask the same question multiple times. You only need the answer one time.
And that makes a huge difference in how you show up.
Visualize what you want to Happen
Visualize what you want to happen, but visualize it from the perspective of what YOU do and what YOU believe.
Visualize asking the question, getting the answer, completing the assignment and being confident. Don’t worry about what the partner believes about your abilities. Don’t worry about what the partner believes about your question. Because that’s not your problem. You can’t control with the partner believes.
Which one feels better?
Showing up in your partner’s office confidently with the goal of getting an answer to your question so that you can continue to move forward in your career?
Showing up in your partner’s office with fear and anxiety, hoping that you can somehow control what they believe or feel?
Which one feels better to you?
Do that one.
Be Willing to Feel Discomfort
You must be willing to feel discomfort and to feel those uncomfortable emotions that you feel before you ask a question. The more you practice the discomfort and the less you resist it, the more you will notice that it goes away.
When you ask a question and you get the answer, you no longer have to feel the anxiety and stress of not knowing the answer.
You get into the habit of taking that uncomfortable step so that the discomfort goes away quickly. And it feels so much better and so much more liberating.
Effective New Beliefs
“I am willing to believe that when I ask questions, I move forward in my career.”
“I am not responsible for what the partner thinks about my question, I am responsible for using the answer to complete my assignment.”
“I am willing to believe that I become a better lawyer and more confident every time I ask questions.”
How do these beliefs feel? Practice them. Meditate with them. Write them out. Feel the emotions they create in your body and how they feel so much better than anxiety, stress and fear. And notice how much more confidently you show up to work.