I’m a man and I regularly say “I don’t know”. Maybe too often, maybe I should know some more things. But I promise that I don’t fit the stereotype of a guy who blusters through saying yeah, yeah, ‘course, everybody knows that, easy, done it twice this morning myself.
It’d be good to think that I was just a superb human being but the truth is that I get a little kick out of seeing people’s faces. Especially in teams, especially with editors, most especially – to be fully honest about it – with women. People tend to blink a lot at me. You can see the cogs processing. Occasionally, yes, the cog is saying “So why are we paying this guy?” but most of the time it’s a much more positive surprise.
There was one editor I had who blinked at me quite a bit at first. Later she told me that I’d done what she’d asked me to do and that when it wasn’t right but she’d explained again, I’d changed it until she was happy. “Yes,” I said. “And?”
“Just not used to it,” she said.
I’ve always recognised that the real benefit of admitting you don’t know something is that it is ferociously easier than pretending you do and then having to answer detailed questions. I’m slightly schizophrenic about this because I’ve often said yes, I can do something, when I’ve not done it before but am confident. Still, when it comes to a fact or to my opinion about something, if I don’t know it, I tell you.
What I’ve been told today is that it has one more benefit. The blog 42 Floors – continuing the honesty theme, I’ve never heard of it before thirty seconds ago – includes a piece recounting the story of an interviewer named Kiran asking a difficult question and being told “I don’t know”:
[H]e smiled and responded back, “I was waiting for that. I like it when people say I don’t know.” Kiran explained that he likes it when people say I don’t know because it lends credibility to everything else that they’ve said.
Tip of the head to 99U for the link.