I Don’t Know

A man standing in a large, dark pipe looking towards the blackness holding a lit match in his left hand
Image by Wil Stewart

“I don’t know”. Why do we fear to utter those three little words? Whether at work helping a colleague, or with your children helping them with their homework, we’re terrified of the inevitable time we are asked a question we don’t know the answer to. But rather than admit it, we mumble, hesitate and stumble through our minds, trying to grasp an answer that isn’t there? We scramble for any tiny piece of relevant information in our brain to the question or problem at hand, and when we think of something even slightly connected, we state it in our most certain tone in order to convey authority on subject:

“Yes, I have an answer. Bow to my vast knowledge”

So sad. Surely being wrong is worse than pretending that you know the answer when you don’t. I envy children, particularly pre-schoolers. There is so much that they don’t know but that doesn’t hold them back. They revel in their non-knowledge, testing, searching, playing and learning with glee. I have long suspected that school drills this natural curiosity out of them: if you get the wrong answer you get a big red X, the most terrible mark of all. You do not pass. You have failed. You are not good enough. So children start to do everything they can to not be wrong. Study the text books religiously, remember their contents, you will be asked questions on this very thing and you must recite it like good little sheep to get your little green tick. And so this filters through their lives, not admitting to not knowing because to not know the answer is the worst of all possibilities.

There is great power in “I don’t know”. Not knowing is the starting point to asking questions and investigating and testing and learning and answers. Answers lead to understanding. Understanding leads to knowing and then, and only then can you say with authority “Yes! I have an answer!”

Do not fear I don’t know. Grasp it with delight at the opportunity it opens for you.

What are your thoughts?