Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen

You are allowed.

I ask a lot of questions while I teach.  An answer of, "I don't know" is a response I hear on a regular basis.  "I don't know" is a common sound, weaved through the tapestry of our society.

Don't get me wrong...I'm very comfortable not knowing the answer.  But as an invested (and maybe obsessive) teacher, I see a vast different between when people quickly say, "I don't know," and those who take in the question, sit in consideration for a while, and then say, "I don't know."

You are allowed to sit in silent thought.  Your teacher, your parents, your friends...most caring people around you would LOVE you to do this.  Taking some time for thought while in the "throws of conversation" or in a lesson does a couple positive things.  It ends up showing the questioner that you take their question seriously and you also get to think about something to which you'd otherwise either rattle off an answer, or just throw out another, "I don't know."  

In addition to missing out on the positive results from thinking before saying, "I don't know." there are manydestructive reasons for having a knee-jerk "I don't know" reaction/response:

- a stalling tactic
- a fear of taking responsibility for what we're doing
- we're scared of appearing too intelligent
- a fear of saying something wrong
- we fear the question is a trick question
- we fear what someone might say
I used to throw the "I don't know" around too easily too.  Then I had a friend who did something for me that I didn't catch until the third time she did it.  I'd say, "Yeah, I don't know..." and she said, "Well, if you did know, what would it be?" I'd share some pretty thoughtful and useful stuff and then the third time, half-way through my answer, I said, "ahhhh ok yeah I see what you did there! Nice!" 
When we give ourselves permission to think, sit in silence, ponder, and respond with thoughtful answers or questions ourselves, we are able to become great.

Here's something for you to try this week:

Instead of right away saying "I'm not sure," or "I don't know" try pausing for a minute. Think about what you really could say or want to say.  Take some time to listen to and acknowledge what the person with whom you're communicating is saying and asking. Don't just listen to reply with an easy answer. 

Challenge yourself to truly listen. Challenge yourself to consider your thoughts on this new idea that you're facing.  Learn to be comfortable in silence.  If you do this, you get to learn how to be okay with "not knowing." Best of all...when you do this, you're going to follow "not knowing" with some pretty insightful thinking, and maybe even some of your own wonderful questions of your question-asking colleagues!

Jeff Nelsen
Jeff Nelsen


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