Often, professionals suppose that being considered smart, intelligent, or “on top of things” implies presenting themselves with much self-confidence, and requiring knowing everything. Consequently, they tend to force themselves to pretend to “know it all” and hesitate to respond with an “I don’t know.” When superiors, peers, or employees ask tough questions, they habitually fail to admit their ignorance and force some misguided answer out of themselves.
Think about it: having to know all the answers can actually be quite stressful. It drives professionals to think incessantly about potential challenges, risks, and outcomes. The constant pressure to be “on guard” can steer them towards supposing the worst.
“I Don’t Know; Let me Find Out” is a Perfectly Acceptable Answer
Effective professionals recognize that perfection, flawlessness, and other superlatives are often masks. They acknowledge what they do not know and promise to follow up in proper time and get the right answers. Rather than losing their standing, they gain the trust of their people.
Acknowledging that they do not have answers to all questions, releases professionals of unwarranted worry. This opens the door for others to assist with relevant inputs and promotes good judgment.
There is a downside, however, to repeatedly admitting not knowing many things. A professional is expected to be knowledge about all the essential aspects of her job and explicate all the relevant data to drive her decisions. Where the organization depends on her to know the answers to certain questions, any hints to heedlessness, neglect, or oblivion can weigh down her standing within her organization.