Why is it SO hard to say “I don’t know”? It’s a simple sentence made up of three very basic words… but they’re weighty!

It’s not uncommon for us to feel tremendous pressure to have all the answers. We are managing expectations being put on us by friends and co-workers, as well as those we place on ourselves.

It’s easy to give in to the pressure and act like you know something that you really don’t.  Pride can be hard to swallow.  You don’t want to feel like an idiot in front of the others, so you lie, or twist the truth, or, at the very least, answer deceitfully.  You already know this, but I’ll remind you again…

That’s not good.

It will likely come back to bite you.  If not, you still have to live with yourself.

On the other hand, there are times when you live up to your values and speak honestly. You’re not proud of your lack of information, but you know you have to speak the truth.

Feels good, huh? That’s because it is good.

Our communities will be better for our honesty in this area.

Sometimes, we just don’t know. And that’s okay. We all have limited capacity.

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So, when you’re tempted to give in and lie, remember these 5 reasons why it’s okay to say “I don’t know”:

The Reality–  #1- You don’t know everything.
It seems obvious when we read it or say it out loud, right?  I mean, who really thinks they know it all? However, in the moment of questioning, there can be tremendous pressure to have an answer for everything. It serves us well to remember this simple truth and call it like we see it when it applies. Sometimes, we just don’t know.  And that’s okay.  It’s okay to say “I don’t know” because it’s true!

The Good News–  #2- Neither does anybody else!
You’re in good company.  Every single person you meet today and tomorrow will also fit into the “Doesn’t know everything” category.  This is important to remember because we sometimes think we’re the stupid one and the other guy has it all together.

Not so.  We all have limited capacity.

Each of us know about a very small percentage of knowable things.  You’re not an idiot.  You’re human.  So, when you don’t know, say so.

The others around you may feel better because they know their own limitations.  You could end up being an encouragement someone else who was feeling kind of stupid, as well.  Even if the person with whom you’re speaking acts superior, we all know the truth…she doesn’t know everything, either.

The Obvious– #3- Everyone else already knows that you don’t know.
Often, we are oblivious to this. We are scared to death that someone will find out that we don’t know a particular thing and think less of us. In reality, they already know we don’t know.

They can see it on our face.  They are reading our body language. They know it’s not within our area of emphasis.  Many times, the only person who isn’t aware that they already know, is us!

Keep this in mind when you’re tempted to fake it. Admit you don’t know. They already know it’s true. They are just waiting to see how you respond.

The Payoff– #4- People will respect your honesty.
When you are honest about what you don’t know, you build trust with the people around you. They realize that you are not just going to say whatever is necessary to look good. You show yourself to be an honest person. You show that you are willing to admit when you’re wrong and address reality. They don’t have to worry about whether or not you will throw them under the bus or twist stories at their expense.

By the way, you will also build your self-respect. You know when you’re telling the truth. It feels good to know you owned your mistakes or your partial ignorance.  Have integrity and respect yourself.

The Reminder– #5- It’s not all about you.
There’s something bigger than us at play, here.  It’s reality.  It’s truth.

Whatever is…is.

We can only make progress and get the most out of life if we are seeing things as they really are. We have to know where we’re starting and where we’re trying to go. When we paint false pictures about what we know and what we’ve done, we blur the assessment of our situation. It’s hard to do anything with that.

We should seek to see things for what they really are, and state them accordingly. We should poke and prod and ask questions until we find what we’re looking for, and then be honest about what we found.

When we value truth, we realize that we are not the ultimate and only authority.  Reality is what reality is.

We are all subject to what exists, and, as such, are common pursuers of truth.

So, when we don’t know, it’s okay to say so….it’s not personal.

Do you ever struggle to admit when you don’t know something?
Why do you think that’s the case?