I am surprised at how often people use the phrase “I don’t know!”. I meet it every day with friends, family, myself and especially with my clients.
Sometimes, it seems such a genuine answer especially when people say “Honestly, I have thought long and hard about it and I don’t know!” but it can also be a snake in the grass. Of course, there are genuine uses of it especially when you are lacking proper information like:
- “What are the ingredients of this cake?”
- “I don’t know!”
However, most of us use “I don’t know!” to avoid answering questions we actually do know the answer to. It has become such an easy way to escape and dodge facing your responsibilities, giving your control to someone else, letting someone else choose for you. Have you even wondered what the reasons are why we use “I don’t know!”?
If you consider a simple scenario like:
- “What do you feel like doing tonight?”
- “I don’t know!”
Here are some of the most prevalent reasons:
- In case I get it wrong: basically, here what it means is I know what I want to do but if I say it, you might not agree with me and it might not sound cool so I will feel stupid, rejected and get embarrassed.
- I can’t be bothered but I will not say that and here it means it is too much effort to figure out what I want to do and even if I do I will go into lengthy discussions of negotiating what we want to do so instead I simply answer I don’t know so that you decide for us.
- It is too hard to find the answer so instead of feeling and going through the stress and the effort of feeling, sensing and trusting what I want, I would rather you do it for me so I do not get the responsibility of blaming myself for not having fun.
What is your reason for saying “I don’t know!”?
There are times when the words just fly out of our mouths without even thinking of the question – it is like an automatic and safe response. Sometimes in the shape of “I am not sure” or “I am not certain” – find your way of saying “I don’t know!”.
There are consequences with using these phrases.
Firstly, the people involved get pretty annoyed with your lack of contribution, sense of purpose, enthusiasm and that they have to bear all the burden of deciding for you. And when they do, no matter how well they know you and how meaningful and intuitive these people are, they will never know exactly what you wanted and you will never be fully satisfied.
Secondly, you never get what you want in life as you never clearly say what it is exactly you want. You do not get to design your life; express your dreams and wishes and simply float where the waves of life take you.
Thirdly, no one ever takes you seriously as you do not have a meaning and at some point people will stop asking you and assume that you will be fine with whatever they choose for you.
Fourthly, your self-esteem and self-confidence will suffer big time because of that.
Therefore, I would strongly recommend banning such an “innocent” phrase from your vocabulary right now or if you must use it add phrases like:
- Give me a few moments and I will decide
- I will figure it out by time/date.
Take charge of your life and figure out what it is you really want and create the life you desire. Trust that you know!