Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sometimes It's Better To Admit You Just Don't Know

For years I was guilty of making out I knew more than I did. Sometimes it was a case of trying to impress, other times it was not wanting to admit I was wrong, and other times it was not wanting to appear ignorant about a topic or situation. Yet on just about every occassion I was perfectly aware of what I was doing but felt unable to prevent it. It felt as though I had to provide this 'cover' for fear of being found out. Yet all it was doing was compounding the issue by drawing attention to that very weakness. In worst-case scenarios it would lead me to fighting my corner even when I knew I was absolutely in the wrong, and with nothing to substantiate my argument with. All it did was create a layer of arrogance to paper over the insecurity, yet I did little to fix it.

It wasn't until four years ago when my partner at the time made it abundantly clear to me how irritating it was, that I decided it had to stop. Thankfully her words resonated enough for me to literally make the shift overnight. With immediacy I went from saying, "I know," to offering a curteous acknowledgement; and from making out I knew something I quite clearly didn't to offering something intuitive or simply admitting I really didn't know.

To begin with it was strange because it felt awkward to 'display' such a vulnerability. But over time, that in itself became the benefit because it was actually a relief not to have to pretend anymore. A self-imposed weight had been lifted from my shoulders and it felt great. I could even say it grounded me in a way. And ever since, I've noticed how many other people behave in exactly the same way. And guess what ... it irritates me too! But I also undertand where they're coming from because I was in that same place - that makes a difference.

INQUIRY: How often do you say "I know" when being 'corrected' by someone more knowledgeable who is just trying to help? How often do you try to make out you know or understand something when really you don't? How much awareness of this do you have, and how do you feel when it just blurts out?

ACTION: For the next seven days, do the following and notice how different you feel; instead of saying, "I know," when offered correct 'advice' by someone, acknowledge them; instead of coming up with a 'smart' reply or comment when pretending you know something, let go of the pretense and admit you just don't know. You may find it far more liberating than you thought ... and it will make a difference to the way you see yourself and the way others see you too.

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