When does ‘I don’t know’ mean ‘I don’t know’?

I’d like to hedge a bet and say never, or at least rarely!

One of the challenges of being human, is the limited capacity of our ‘thinking’ brain. Whilst it is powerful in many ways, it is also quite limited in its capacity to think though complexity.

The pre-frontal cortex (the bit that makes us intelligently human) is a linear processor. It loves problems that fit into an A + B + C = D structure. When you find yourself going around in circles over a problem or challenge, it will often be because either the A, or the B, or the C is missing. Until that piece of the puzzle is discovered or sourced, the equation can’t be processed and your thinking goes into a kind of loop.

This is where having a buddy with effective conversation skill can help because for the same reasons (ie, linear), we find it difficult to analyse our own thinking in ways that can release the blockage.

And for the same reason yet again, we always take the easy way out and an ‘I don’t know’ will elicit a rescue response from someone else who then takes on some of the responsibility for resolving your issue.

Couple this with our innate desire to help others, and an urgency to move the issue along, and an horrific fear of silence , and we fall into a time-consuming series of conversations that still don’t solve the problem.

The reality is that, in most cases, you DO know the answer. People do know what they need and the answer is not in their thinking brain – it’s more intuitive than that and they need to reflect much more deeply and in a non-linear way. This kind of thinking requires time and space.

Helping someone proactively to do this thinking is a skill that can be learned.

However, when I hear the words ‘I don’t know’ I have trained myself to hear ‘I’m not sure, just give me a minute!’ and I SHUT UP.

Giving others the time and space to really think is a gift.

It doesn’t hurt.

The discomfort of the silence will be broken by someone, let it be them.

Try it and see what happens.

Have a great day…

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