Why do we find it so difficult to simply say that we don't know?
Posted on 11th December 2019 at 09:01
We’ve all been in situations where – for whatever reason – we haven’t been able to admit that we haven’t a clue about whatever it is. We just don’t know.
And it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s something big or small, of great importance or of little consequence. We simply don’t like admitting that we don’t know.
We’d also be willing to bet that, as you’re reading this, the Little Monster in your head has quite a lot to say about this simple statement. How it definitely applies to everyone else but not you (!). How you’ve never done such a thing. As if. And the like…
So, rather than admit that we don’t know, we tie ourselves into tighter and tighter knots trying to show that we do. Giving full rein to our imaginations as we try to come up with an answer that sounds remotely plausible. Well, at least to us (!). Making unlikely connections between this and that. Building on things we do know – or like to think we do…
Sometimes, we simply repeat what we’ve read or heard elsewhere. Unfortunately, this relies on other people, who often have as little clue as we do. And so we fall head first into the trap ready to catch the unwary. Assuming that just because someone wears a suit, has an impressive job title or can talk about a topic at length, then they must have some useful knowledge about it. It never seems to occur to us that they may also be repeating what they’ve heard or read elsewhere. Talk about a game of Chinese Whispers….
The ironic thing is that, as we go through all this mental gymnastics, the one thing we’re desperately trying to avoid is guaranteed. We make ourselves look stupid. And just because everyone else is doing the same thing doesn’t make it any better (!).
However, by a supreme twist of irony, with everyone else busy trying to make sure that they don’t look stupid, then no one else may actually notice. Although now we’ve pointed it out, you may find that you now do (!). A real life example of the King’s new clothes, which we’re regularly experiencing in our lives without even realising it. Ah, now the picture makes sense!
Sadly, our reluctance to admit that we simply don’t know, is just another case of backwards thinking. The Little Monster in our heads convincing us that we can know it all. That we are always right. And, if this is not actually the case, then we’ll look stupid.
But is this really the case? Of course not.
Take any topic – whether it’s one we’re familiar with or completely new to us – and there’s only so much we can know about it at any point in time. That’s plain old fashioned common sense. And we’re not talking about theoretical “book knowledge” but knowledge we’ve tested and used to determine whether it’s actually true for us.
With the emphasis on book learning, ie, lists of “accepted facts” about any topic, it’s easy to assume that this is true learning. But, if you stop and think about it, information is of no value until it’s “tested” and shown to be true for us. We’ve used it in some way and proved its value to ourselves.
And, don’t forget that, just because it’s “true” for us, doesn’t automatically mean it’s “true” for other people. Yes, we know this goes against the current approach, with its emphasis on the accumulation of standard lists of information rather than its practical application.
Added to this, knowledge is constantly changing. And we’re not talking in terms of “scientific” advancements but on a much more personal level. Every day, we each have our own particular experiences which affect our own unique knowledge base and view of the world. Subtly – or not (!) – our own knowledge base is constantly evolving. None of us are the same person we were yesterday or will be tomorrow. With this happening to every person on the planet every single day, our individual and collective knowledge is constantly changing and, fingers crossed, evolving.
Each time we say that we know – whether we do or not (!) – we miss a great opportunity to discover more. New information, understanding or perspective on whatever it is. It’s like slamming and locking the door. A great opportunity is missed.
By being willing to consider that we may not know, the door is flung wide open for us. Suddenly all possibilities are available to us to learn more.
And, before we finish for today, there’s another trap waiting to catch the unwary. We’ve hinted at it already. Knowledge is constantly changing.
Just because something is “true” for you today, it doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone for all time. Being prepared to look again at everything you think you know is a huge benefit. And this means everything. Some things may stand the test of time but many simply won’t. After all, we’re used to regularly updating our computer software to keep it up to date. So why don’t we do the same for ourselves?
As always, the choice is yours.
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