Once you identify “your own ignorance” what should you do? You may be thinking, It depends on the situation and to a certain extent, it does. We want to be seen as knowledgeable and informed. We also have a fear of being seen as incompetent, inadequate or even worse an imposter. In fact, being afraid of “not knowing” is so common that psychologists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Counseling Center call it the imposter syndrome. According to their research, 70 percent of people report feeling like an imposter from time to time. But it really is OK not to know everything all the time.
Each of us has a specific area of expertise. My friend Stanley is a law professor specializing in law and religion, constitutional law, and torts (civil actions). I jokingly told him that if I got into “legal trouble” I would call him to represent me. He chuckled, shook his head and said that he took criminal procedure in law school; but that was many, many years ago. He said that I would need an attorney who specialized in criminal law. He was comfortable saying I don’t know.
It really is OK to say I don’t know. It tells people you are being honest, which helps build trust. It also frees you to say I don’t know but I will find out,” and then take the necessary steps to find out. It also sets you apart from those who “make up” an answer or who pass the buck by saying go ask Harvey.
Saying I don’t know but I will find the answer, also shows that you take initiative and that you are willing to learn new things. This shows that you are courageous, flexible and willing to be creative, to try new things all of which lead to problem solving and progress.
Your Weekly Noodle Challenge
I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain … In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar. – Richard Feynman
When was the last time you willingly and freely said I don’t know?
- How did it feel?
- What happened as a result of saying I don’t know?
- Did you learn something?
- What opportunities or alternatives were presented as a result?
Share your experience with us in the Comments field below.
* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.
- Ignorance image courtesy of Intelligent Quotes About Ignorance.
- Computer and cat image courtesy of The School of Modern Herbal Medicine.
- I don’t know image courtesy of Sodahead.