You are currently viewing The Hidden Cost of, “I don’t know.”

The Hidden Cost of, “I don’t know.”

I read an interesting article in Psychology Today and it made sense. You know the situation where your spouse says, What do you want for dinner? And you say, I don’t know. Whatever you want.

You think you’re being nice and flexible, but you’re damaging the relationship. And it’s not just for married couples, it’s all relationships. Personal and business.

A series of studies were concluded recently, and the findings suggest the person who asks the original question doesn’t believe you when you say “I don’t know.” They think you have a preference and, in their effort to please you, they also think your preference is different from theirs. 

Because of this, the original person asking the question will opt for something they like less, making the experience worse for everyone. The kind thing to do is have a preference. Even if it’s only slight, when asked, your answer should never be, I don’t know.

What should you say if someone (Partner, Spouse, Candidate, Client, Child, Friend) responds to your question with an I don’t know? Agree with them, and then press it.

“I understand you don’t know, and you don’t need to know the answer. Let’s say you were forced to respond. What do you think?”

Clearly, you’d need to modify it slightly for the circumstances, but it’s always a good idea to push someone else’s I don’t know, and to catch your own. The next time you answer a question with I don’t know, stop and think. Do you know? Do you have a preference? The kind thing to do is to share it.

There is a way to handle this without forcing the other party to come to an answer. Using the dinner example, let’s say you don’t have any idea, and the other party suggests, “Why don’t we try (whatever.)” You are more likely relieved than upset they made a suggestion. Remember that when you run into a business I don’t know. Your “why don’t we try” may be all the push they need. 

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Tricia Tamkin, headhunter, advisor, coach, and gladiator. Tricia has spoken at over 50 recruiting events, been quoted in multiple national publications, and her name is often dropped in groups as the solution to any recruiters’ challenges. She brings over 30 years of deep recruiting experience and offers counsel in a way which is perspective changing and entertaining.

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