“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
Our professional surroundings have conditioned us to accept the fact that we must have the answer to everything that is asked to us. While our subordinates look up to us for answering questions they might have, our superiors like to believe that we know about everything they ask us.
We find it hard to say, ‘Hey, I do not know the answer to that one!’ as it makes us feel foolish in front of others. But guess what – it is perfectly okay to not have knowledge about everything. However, there are better ways to say, “I don’t know” in front of your boss, colleagues and clients, which will make you feel less embarrassed and not leave a negative impression on those around you.
“I’m not completely sure of the answer, but allow me to get back to you with more information.”
This response is like hitting two birds with one stone. Not only do you subtly convey that you do not have a proper answer, but you also assure that you’ll do a quick research to find the exact solution. Your clients, customers and seniors will definitely appreciate this response, but make sure you follow it up with the right answer later on.
“That’s a good question. Let me find out more about that so I can give you a better answer.”
By saying this, you have actually bought more time for yourself to give a detailed response to the question. This is a smarter way of covering up your ignorance on a subject. Also, by acknowledging someone’s question, you have earned his or her respect and attention.
“On the basis of what I know as of today, I think...”
When you don’t want your audience to know that you don’t have enough knowledge on a particular subject, you can cover up for it to some extent by giving this response. It allows you to handle the situation by talking from the limited knowledge you have and will not make the other person think that you are completely dumb. However, if you are saying this, make sure that whatever little knowledge you have on a topic is completely accurate, else you might end up embarrassing yourself more than before.
“It surprises me how I was unaware of it all this while, but now that you have mentioned, I’ll definitely go back and check on this topic.”
A smarter way of managing an otherwise embarrassing situation is by confidently giving this response. This can be said not just to your boss or clients, but also to your subordinates. It makes them feel that even though you do not know about something, you have the courage to admit it gracefully.
“I don’t really have much information on that, but maybe my colleague here could be in a better position to respond to your question.”
This response works well when you are in the midst of a presentation to your client or customer and they pop up with a question you have no idea about. You could pass on the onus of answering the query to your colleague, provided you are confident that they would have a definite answer to it.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you are clueless about something is to remain calm and confident. Rather than panicking, maintain your composure and throw one of the above responses smartly to avoid embarrassing yourself, and remember – nobody is perfect.
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