I don’t know

Sometimes the urge or need to say ‘I don’t know’ is taken away by the fear of admitting you don’t know.

Sometimes it’s admitting to your kids you don’t know why the sky is blue or admitting you don’t know how the interest rate change will affect their savings account or their pocket money.

Sometimes it’s admitting to your colleagues, either those more senior or junior to you, that you don’t know the latest changes in a project deadline, the latest version of the strategy document (or even where it’s filed), etc.

If you don’t know something, my experience shows you will always be caught out eventually if you bluff your way through it. Please just own up to it and admit you don’t have the latest forecast, project timeline, update, communication, strategy, etc.

What you do next is the most important part – ‘I don’t know … but let me go and find out’. This is what I like to hear. It might not even be a mistake or an oversight on your part, it might have been a question you weren’t expecting and therefore you didn’t know you needed to be prepared for. By showing me you’re human and not perfect you’ll certainly get my respect.

Show me you can say ‘I don’t know’ and still function. I’m not scary or trying to intimidate you, I don’t want you to be in fear of admitting you don’t know. I need you to be able to function in any situation, even one where you may need to be vulnerable. Please trust me to help you through it.

This is how I like to be treated too. I don’t want to be intimidated, I want to be supported. None of us are perfect, nor should we think we are or should be. There will be times when we aren’t up to our best, or miss something off our ever-increasing to-do lists. It’s not deliberate, it’s not a ‘mistake’ as such. It’s just life.

Fear engenders lying … Too often we fear uttering these words, convinced that doing so will diminish us, will undermine our status and block our advancement.

In fact these words liberate and empower. So much of the condition of being human involves not knowing. The more comfortable we become with this truth, the more fully and unabashedly we may inhabit our skins, our souls, and — speaking of learning — the more able we become to grow.

‘The courage to say I don’t know’ by Leah Hager Cohen

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash