Why is it so hard to say these 3 words?
Is it pride? ego? or an attempt to save face?
During my time as a SIFE presenter, competition judges would ask me a number of questions about my team, projects, results, etc. – and I was required to know the answer. If I didn’t…well then I was pretty good at thinking on my feet (what some people call the BS generator!). Pretty soon after consistent reinforcement, the mindset of always having to give an answer became my reality.
But there are times when all you need to do: is shut up, say you don’t know and listen.
This past summer I had a great meeting with someone from the consulting industry who was helping me prepare for an interview. Sitting in a coffeeshop, he asked me “If you were asked a question like, how many pounds of coffee this place goes through in a day – do you know how’d you answer the question?”
I didn’t. Instead of telling him that, I made something up about various estimates I would make, factor in a few other variables, use some big words, blah blah blah.
“Ok, so you don’t know.”
He made me realize something important: I’m not perfect, I don’t and won’t have all the answers – and in cases like this: it’s OK. This wasn’t the real interview and last I checked, I had asked for this meeting to get help; not to prove something. The more time I spent pretending to know, the more I was taking away from listening to the answer that would help me. It’s important to recognize the audience you’re dealing with. I could have argued that my answer was correct and at that moment made up my mind that anyone who disagreed with me was wrong – but that would be insulting the time he took after his long work day to meet me. He wasn’t being paid to be here and my being prepared for the interview was of no consequence to him. Often times the audience giving us advice/feedback does so for our own good. You may not agree with everything they have to say – but you owe them your patience to hear them out, process what they’re saying and take from it what you will.
Moral of the story? Shut up, say you don’t know and listen: It’ll be worth your while.