This is such a difficult thing to say sometimes, isn’t it; to admit that we don’t know something? How much easier it is to hedge - to say we forget, or make a guess, or even just boldly come up with a random answer, rather than to admit that we do not know. To say that we don’t know can leave us feeling uninformed, less than, like we don’t know the score, or worse, stupid.
However I would like to offer a way to see this simple statement in a new light. What does it really mean when we say, “I don’t know?” It means we recognize that we likely don’t have all the facts (often the case). It means we are not familiar with each perspective in the situation. It means our ego is not in charge and we can be honest. It means that we are open to learning. Rather than indicating weakness, this admission can reflect strength and wisdom.
How is the practice of saying, “I don’t know” applicable in daily life? Dozens, if not hundreds, of times each day, things happen and we are quick to judge them. That’s bad. This is good. That is very bad, etc., when the truth is we most often we don’t know how any particular event will play out in our lives.
In coaching as well as my personal life, I have seen people lose their jobs, and while at first blush that seemed bad, it actually turned out to be an opportunity for them to get out of a toxic work environment, or go back to school, or pursue what they’ve been dreaming of doing.
Conversely, when someone gets a promotion at work, it’s easy to think, “Yay, that’s fabulous!" But the truth is we don’t know. Perhaps it is, but maybe the new position demands too much time away from family and leaves little free time, both of which are crucial to living a balanced life.
To be completely honest, I’ve caught myself speaking authoritatively about situations I didn’t have all the facts on, and mid-sentence stopped, and said, “I don’t really know, that’s just my guess.” Surprisingly, it actually felt good to admit that.
The Indian sage Sadhguru explains that what we know is finite. Even if we know a great deal, it is still finite. But when we say, “I don’t know,” we step into the infinite realm of possibilities.
This week, I invite you to explore when the best and wisest thing you can say is, “I don’t know.”