In a book I read years ago, the title of which is now lost to time, one of the key takeaways went something like this:
If you have a question, it’s likely that other people in the room have the same question but they have been there too long to ask it without feeling like they’re stupid
This idea that there's always someone else with the same question as me is something I’ve tried to be mindful of in my daily life.
A few weeks ago at CrossFit we had to do a 200-meter run, 10 push-ups, and 10 deadlifts. I knew what the push-ups and deadlifts were, but had no idea where the 200-meter run marker was in CrossFit, since I’ve just started and we’ve never done one before.
So I asked the coach, who was surprised I didn’t know and seemed surprised I'd asked the question. I gave him some spiel like the quote above, about others probably having the same question.
He didn’t actually believe me until just before he said ‘go’ on the workout, two other people bashfully admitted they didn’t know the 200-meter marker either, and they had been in CrossFit for a year.
With your clients, in most cases you have that unique advantage of knowing very little about their business. You don’t know the ‘inside terms’ they throw around. You don’t know the internal politics.
So ask those questions of your clients. Don't be bashful.
Don’t just ask them once -- if you don’t understand, don’t pretend to understand, but ask again. Make it your mission to simply ask questions about the things you don’t know.
Pretending is going to expose you at some point and you’re going to look really stupid then.