I Don't Know

Saying 'I Don't know' is okay

It’s not very often I know what inspires me to write a post, often it’s something I just have swishing around for a while. Today’s was definitely triggered by something, although it is something that I thought about a lot. I was watching ‘King’ on Netflix, and without giving too many spoilers away (If you’re not that clued up on the battle of Agincourt). However, there is a military advisor who was quiet through most of the campaign, only giving advice when he was certain, giving a humorous quip equivalent to saying ‘I don’t know.’

This was something I struggled with for a long time, and then somewhere along the way it just clicked. I became comfortable with saying ‘I Don’t Know.’ That’s all it was too. I had no excuse other than I was not comfortable with it. You may be thinking what does it matter, why should I be comfortable with this. Well let’s look at an example.

Someone heads into a supermarket in a bit of a rush, and to save time asks where something Is located. The person is new and isn’t really sure, so just has a bit of a guess, sending the person off to the otherside of the store. After 5 minutes of looking, telling themselves it must be there, they ask someone else to find out they should have been sent to the other side of the store. Now, after a bit more wasted time, our person has been inconvenienced and is probably quite annoyed with the person they asked initially.

Now this is a fairly harmless example, which most people won’t get too annoyed by, and has no drastic outcome. Say if you start to apply this same logic into the workplace, you may start to see areas where a wild stab in the dark would just end up making the situation work. It seems like common sense, but I see it quite a lot, you may get the feeling that someone is unsure, but it is very rare someone will simply say ‘I don’t know.’

Most people probably don’t want to come across as unhelpful, and ‘I don’t know’ is pretty unhelpful. Especially as if someone takes the time to ask you, they probably think you would know. So how do we turn make sure we are still being helpful. Well, I have 3 favourite follow ups:

  • It’s something I will have to look into
  • I know how to find out
  • I know who will

If these three thing don’t solve the question that was asked, the person is looking for an answer in completely the wrong place. Head back to the supermarket, each of these statements would find the missing item. However if they were looking for beans in b and q, you’re probably not going to be able to help them.

Hopefully this helps you be a little bit more comfortable saying ‘I don’t know,’ just remember it’s your actions afterwards that make you helpful. Hopefully, no one is going to be frustrated with you not knowing, unless you were asked to find out previously at least…

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