One of the reasons some of my students like working with me is because I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t know something. It helps them feel like they don’t have to know everything, either.
But they also like me because of what I do after admitting I don’t know. I start trying to find out.
I’ve long known that I don’t know everything. Given that I generally come across as pretty darn smart, most people are very surprised when I don’t know something. Of course, I’m not okay with not learning something new when the opportunity arises, so I try to find out what I didn’t know.
This has had so many benefits for me over the years. First, I get to learn something new! (I like that part.) Second, I get to be helpful, another thing I really enjoy. Third, the person I’m helping actually gets the help they need (probably the best part).
I’m human. I don’t know everything. I’m okay with that. But if you need to know something I don’t know, then I’m going to help you find it. Amazingly, many of my students come to me with the inability to find anything without resorting to Wikipedia. Those same students tend to leave me knowing how to use a book’s index and table of contents to find information within the book they’re using. They know to go find another resource if the book they’re holding isn’t enough, and they know how to pick a good book. If they’re researching online, they know how to to create search queries that will give them results that are better quality and more informative than what they would have found on their own.
In all my years of retail, volunteer, and teaching experience, no one has ever killed me for saying, “I don’t know,” and they’ve never left me without finding out what they needed to know or at least being pointed in the right direction.
(Inspired by Scott Ginsberg)