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We often talk about the modern obsession with communication and its unintended – and unanticipated – consequences. Peer pressure. Knee jerk reactions, often on the flimsiest of information. Opinions and hearsay dressed up as facts. The increasing polarisation of different points of view, leading to a belligerent “I’m right, everyone else is wrong.” And much more besides. 
 
With pressure coming in from every side, it’s little wonder that simply saying “I don’t know” has become such a difficult thing to say. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s on the smallest – and least important – matter or something much larger or more complicated. 
 
Why is this? 
 
 
 
Well, sadly, it’s another example of the Little Monster in our heads being in charge. Not wanting to look “stupid”, whatever that may be. 
But, if you stop and think about it for a moment, the reverse is really the case. Making a decision – or expressing an opinion – on something you haven’t had time to think about or do a little research on; now that is stupid. 
 
So, by not wanting to look stupid we do exactly the opposite. Make ourselves look stupid. However, the good news is that with everyone else being busy not wanting got look stupid, they probably won’t even notice… 
 
Unfortunately, it means we miss a golden opportunity to go and find out about whatever it is. To learn something new. Broaden our knowledge. Test – or simply review – our current understanding. And, the most important bit, update it in the light of our new knowledge on whatever it is. What is stupid about that? Nothing. 
 
However, there’s another little trap waiting to catch the unwary. And, once again, it involves the Little Monster in our heads. 
Genuinely admitting you don’t know, keeps your mind open. And, just as important, impartial. It lets you assess ALL the information coming in, whether it confirms your current understanding – or assumptions – or not. 
 
Put another way, genuine doubt is your friend and ally. It allows you to question your current truth – or accepted facts – about whatever it is. Either confirming it or updating it. And remember, that your truth or understanding is yours alone. It isn’t automatically anyone else’s. Nor should it ever be AND you should never ever try to force it on to others. Respect is the key here, to you and everyone else. 
 
And, as an aside, if you’re confident and secure in your own understanding and opinions then you won’t feel the need to force them on anyone else. Others having a different understanding or opinion to yours won’t be a threat to you. You’ll be happy to “live and let live.” To discuss any topic and listen to any opposing views. So, needing – or forcing – others to have the same understanding or opinions as yours is ALWAYS a warning bell, however unpalatable that may be… 
 
Sadly, it’s all too easy for doubt to tip over into suspicion. No longer open minded but distrustful, suspecting there’s some sort of dishonesty at play. Not surprisingly, this makes people defensive, protecting themselves and their current understanding or opinions. 
So, rather than looking at the information more objectively, their focus narrows to only considering anything that supports it. Again, another golden opportunity is missed. 
 
From there, it’s only a short step to scepticism. And we’re not talking about scepticism in the true meaning of the word. A genuinely questioning attitude and open mind. Treating nothing as automatically “true” or “right”. Looking at all options. 
 
Rather the selective scepticism that’s seen all too often these days. “I’m right and everything else is wrong.” Dismissing any view or information contrary to their own, without even a cursory glance or investigation. And, if you want to see it in action, just pick any contentious topic – and there are plenty these days (!) – and look at how anyone or anything that questions it is treated… 
 
Expressing doubt and remaining neutral is never a sign of weakness. It’s completely natural – and perfectly normal – to simply not know and be comfortable with that. Giving yourself time to go and find out, to make up your own mind. And, most importantly, never treating anything as being set in stone but ready to be reviewed – or updated – as new information comes in. 
 
As always, the choice is yours. 
 
 
Picture by unknown artist 
 
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