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Want the Upper Hand? Ask the Dumb Questions. Take it from a journalist: You can learn a lot when you shelve your ego.

By Jason Feifer

This story appears in the September 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Nigel Parry

My days as a rookie reporter were full of panic. I was interviewing people who worked in complex places -- city government, local industry, hospital administration. I wanted them to trust me; I wanted them to think, This kid understands what I'm saying, and will accurately report it. But of course, I didn't understand them. I didn't even understand their language. A local mayor would say "RFP," and I'd nod and make a note to google the letters when I got back to my desk. If I asked what it meant, I figured, the mayor would consider me a clown.

Related: 5 Ways to Stop Worrying What Others Think

One day, however, an older reporter gave me some liberating advice. "Don't be afraid to ask dumb questions," he said. "A source would prefer explaining something to you than having you report it wrong." He was right. Oftentimes, the question even charmed people, and then they'd tell me something surprising and perfect for my story.