How many times have you asked someone a question only to find out that the person you sought an answer from had no clue how to answer, much less desire to find the answer for you? As children we learn the word “no” by the age of two. It feels very powerful to say no. It establishes our autonomy and sets boundaries. Saying “no” is decisive and to the point, it’s non-negotiable. Then there is the version of “no” that gets us out of trouble, so we think. The “I don’t know”.
Both versions listed above are formats we establish as our way of shutting down or stopping any further conversation. It could just go on and on like the word “why”. If we are persistent with our deflection we eventually establish ourselves as someone who can’t be honest or trusted or depended on.
In an article written by Michael J. Rosen, CFRE, he discusses the 7 most powerful words to help establish trust and respect in business. His article speaks from the perspective of non-profit professionals and fundraising. While I was reading through the article however I realized that children, teens and young adults, not just grown-ups and professionals could really benefit from these 7 powerful words. What are they?
“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
“I don’t need to know everything. I just need to know where to find it when I need it.”—Albert Einstein
There is a whole new empowering life beyond “I don’t know” and here is what gets rooted with the “but I’ll find out” part:
1) If a child asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, say the 7 powerful words. It validates the child, it validates the child’s question and it makes the child feel important. Can you also see the same feelings being generated in college students and grown-ups?
2) As the person asking the question I suddenly feel heard and understood.
3) As the person asking the question I immediately recognize the honesty, vulnerability and authenticity of the person to whom I am asking the question. Suddenly it is quite okay not to know everything.
4) By saying those 7 powerful words you take ownership of the question or concern. It becomes important to you and your responsibility to the person asking the question becomes important as well.
5) Using those 7 powerful words establishes a road toward trust. If I don’t know the answer and I find out the answer for your question or concern you will know for the future that you can count on me to get back to you, to be honest with my effort and my communication. You can trust me to take my responsibility to my follow through very seriously.
6) Your follow through keeps communication open between people. Once I know I can depend, trust and feel safe with your help in finding an answer I then want to keep talking to you and keep exploring deeper into my questions and discoveries. I have an ally and a support system. I feel emboldened and empowered.
7) Most of all these 7 powerful words build respect. I respect the fact that you don’t immediately know the answer and even more respect that you want to help me and want to find the answer. You have respected me by taking on my question or concern and I respect you for giving my question or concern your full attention.
Imagine a student saying to his/her teacher, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” A teacher would be a bit surprised to hear that at first but filled with pride and respect for the student who puts forth the effort to follow through, to take ownership of the question and answer, to respect the teacher for the job being done. The student in turn learns the importance of follow through and keeping his/her word and pride starts to take root within the student.
What could you learn for yourself by saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”? Maybe you had the same question stir inside you at some point but dismissed your own curiosity? Maybe by helping to find out the answer you empowered yourself for the next time that question comes up again.
As parents it is good to let our children know and see that we don’t have all the answer but we know how to try to find the answers. Make it fun to explore and mine for answers. Encourage your young children to keep asking questions so they can learn how to find answers. Ask them questions to allow them to be in a problem solving, helpful situation. The power of knowledge is everlasting.
Power the knowledge.
“If you know, to recognize that you know, if you don’t know, to realize that you don’t know. That is knowledge.” –Confucious
To read more about Michael J. Rosen visit www.michaelrosensays.wordpress.com