So What I'm Hearing From You Is....?

Indigenous Leadership Academy Blog
Posted by
Kristen Talbert
Indigenous Leadership Academy Program Coordinator

The Indigenous Leadership Academy Fall 2022 Cohort application closes tomorrow, at midnight MST.. There’s still time to apply! You can learn more about the Indigenous Leadership Academy by visiting our webpage here.

Have you seen the video of the spelling bee and the student who cannot understand the word being given? He keeps asking clarifying questions and it's comical how long it takes. You can watch it here. This past weekend while hiking, my partner and I were discussing the video and we agreed, if the student had not asked clarifying questions he would’ve definitely not spelled the word correctly and ultimately eliminated from the spelling bee. Professionally if there is something we do not know or understand, asking clarifying questions is the best way to get to a place of understanding.

Often in my professional life, if I do not understand something, I ask questions. I know it can be intimidating to ask questions for fear it will make you look incompentent. I assure you that is not the case. When I ask questions I always start with, “for my clarification…” or “for my understanding…” then ask the question. Once they answer I follow up with, “What I hear you saying is this, is that correct?” If it is, then I know we’re on the same page. If it’s not, I try to change my question to understand better what it is the other person is trying to say. Once we are on the same page it’s easier to get the task completed 

In the Native culture, asking clarifying questions can be difficult. I know as a Dakota person, there is an unspoken rule that you are supposed to observe until you know a subject well and only then should you ask questions. That is a difficult thing to do when you are under time constraints. Another aspect of native culture is we don’t really like the spotlight on us and therefore don’t feel comfortable asking questions if speaking up will single us out. One work around that works for me is doing a google search or watching a youtube video to teach myself the basics of a skill. Another is asking the question one on one and not in a large group setting. That way, I can still ask my clarifying question without the pressure of being watched by a large group.

Asking clarifying questions will always help you. It’s not always comfortable or easy, but it’s always good to speak up and get the answers you need to do the job to the best of your ability. Henana, pidamaya ye (that is all, thank you). Kristen