Sometimes its better to say I don’t know.

At a recent seminar during a break people were networking. A devout introvert I’ve worked for years to get my practice down and its pretty functional.

One thing that helps is having a compact description of what you do – you don’t really even need titles as they’re on your business cards. (You’ve got cards, right?) In meeting people its all about the handshake, eye contact, repeating their name and engaging with them.

Making the rounds that day I stopped to say hello with a twosome and we fell into a conversation the topic of which I can’t recall now. What is memorable is this: it was evident one of them didn’t know what they were talking about.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of business:

Sometimes its better to say I don’t know

Granted, if that becomes your stock answer to virtually any question in the office your nickname will soon be IDK and you’ll have lots of time to look for a new role while your [now] former employer wonders what in the world you did for them. But I’m not advocating its use in every situation.

When its right, find a way to say you don’t know.

Now I’ve had some tough bosses and on its own that phrase wouldn’t have worked. I can still feel them glaring at me when I’d say something like I don’t know, let me find out. But it wasn’t fatal, I got answers and we moved on.

What struck me about the trio I was part of the other day was that it was clear to myself and one other that the third person was spinning and dodging and weaving in an attempt to create a story. Call that what you will. Confused, dishonest, egoistic.

Not sure what the label is.

To borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld: it was a known unknown.

People fascinate me: I enjoy meeting them in person or virtually. On average the people I interact with tend to be smarter than me and I always feel I get the bigger share of the bargain for having a new contact.

But in interacting I try never to pretend I know things that I don’t.

I don’t know is an acceptable answer.

Another one that works well is this: I didn’t know that – tell me more.


4 thoughts on “IDK

  1. LOVE this post. I wish more people would just say “I don’t know” instead of feeling the need to look smart or with it or whatever their reason may be. So much better to ask for clarification or figure it out than hope you don’t get caught in your white lie. “I don’t know” is a simple truth and the truth is always the way to go.

  2. Oh thank you so much for taking the time to leave a remark Julie: its refreshing how good it feels to just say IDK and then begin the process of learning!

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