We all do it. Something new comes along, and we don’t know exactly what the ins and outs are. So we fake it until we can figure it out. And until we figure it out, it’s pretty uncomfortable.
The potential disaster looming in our head is ridicule: we screw up or we’re found out or both. Depending on how vividly we imagine this scenario, we may abandon faking it altogether.
Try not to let that happen. Faking it is a form of learning (unless you’re performing something tricky like surgery or aerial skiing). It usually leads to newfound competence (and confidence).
But, sure, in the moment it feels kind of wrong. Here are a couple ways to ease the uneasiness.
Own your newness
Instead of thinking you have be perfect from the get-go, relax into the idea that you won’t be. Because you don’t have to be. And people will actually respect you for it.
The key is saying something out loud like, “I’m new to this” or, “I’m still getting up to speed.” This sets expectations and tells other people they don’t have to be perfect either — we can all loosen up and be human with one another.
If you’ve been faking it for a while, you might think it’s too late for this. It’s not. Open the door by saying something like, “You know, I’ve never understood why that is.”
Once you’ve established you’re not all-knowing, make the most of your newbie status by asking questions. For instance:
How does this work?
What have you learned in the past year?
Where is there room for improvement?
What’s your instinct about this?
Questions keep you in the conversation while you’re putting the pieces of the puzzle together — which is the other thing you need to do.
Connect the dots
In public, you’re asking questions, listening, and absorbing information. Out of the limelight, you can seriously lessen your novice status by finding and filling your knowledge gaps.
- Write down what you know, including what you’ve learned from your questions.
- Test your knowledge by explaining each item on your list to a curious friend or young child — someone who will ask you probing questions to see how certain and thorough your knowledge is.
- Create a list of what you need to learn (it doesn’t have to be exhaustive). Break down large items into smaller goals so you can build momentum.
- Approach your learning first from a how-to perspective, mastering the mechanics of what needs to be done.
- Once you’re feeling competent, explore the why behind things. With your fresh perspective, you may come with a better way.
P.S. What if you’re found out?
If someone calls your bluff before you figure things out, humility is the go-to attitude, accompanied by a dose of vulnerability. People like humble people. And we’re less inclined to ridicule or expose someone we like.
Here are a few responses to that uh-oh moment:
I was afraid this might happen.
You know when you’re in over your head?
I could really use your help.
Set the tone as one imperfect human being to another and take it from there.
Tips to help you keep it real
Bust through obstacles on your way to greatness with Unstuck Tip Cards — four reusable decks that help you fight procrastination, stop negative thinking, boost productivity, and get more creative.