The three words most of us are afraid to say is “I don’t know.” We all know that nobody knows everything yet we are afraid to admit we don’t know something. This is in part because on a daily basis we hear from so called experts that seem to know everything. No matter if it is where the stock market is going, where societal trends are going, and where political landscape is going. However, we quickly see that these so called experts contradict each other. The popular Freakonomics-series authors Stephen Dubner and and Steven Levitt talk about the power of “I don’t know” and how uttering these words can lead to positive things.
Acting like you know something you don’t empowers ignorance. While they say ignorance is bliss they also say knowledge is power and I choose knowledge. Ask yourself the following questions before spouting off that you know something:
- Do I know something? Seems obvious but first question is do you know something. Do you have any specific background knowledge whether it is experience, research, or reading on the topic at hand or is it simply a gut instinct or pride indicating that you know something.
- Why do I know something? We know things for a variety of reasons – it could be someone that we trust told us it is the case, it could be because we read it in a book or journal from a reputable author, it could we did research and we determined it was the case. Being able to identify why you know something and the veracity of that knowledge is an important step.
- Is it supported by data? Having data to support our position is very valuable. Often times we read about the study and the headline is very convincing but when you actually read about the study it appears to be correlation driven and not causation driven.
- How do I get to know something? If you don’t know something and it is worth knowing it then identifying how you would go about it is the next step. This may be reading a couple books on the subject or talking with an expert in the field that you know.
Admitting that you don’t know something leads to the next step – getting to know something. Sometimes this can be done with a little research on the Internet or sometimes it means you need to do a multi-year, longitudinal research study. Of course it may not be worth getting to know something. If so, you can always make a conscious choice and be empowered by not knowing.
If you do know something be proud of it and speak up but if you are in a meeting with your manager, in an interview, or coming up with a new idea. The words “I don’t know” should not be feared but cherished. “I don’t know” leads to what you do know or what you will eventually know.
Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.
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