The Power of Saying "I Don't Know"
I developed an ear infection and bad cough while at Camp Kemo this summer and decided to go to the Minute Clinic at CVS to get some medicine. I almost went to Doctor’s Care but something told me they don’t call it Minute Clinic for nothing. Just like I had thought, there was no line and I was able to see the nurse asap and get some antibiotics and nose spray for my cough and ear infection. Now that I have set the stage, let me delve into the title,The Power of saying “I Don’t Know”.
My nurse was very personable and during her questionnaire, I had to reveal I was a cancer survivor and had surgery to insert a portacath in my chest. For those that don’t know, a portacath is used to safely and efficiently give liquids like chemotherapy to patients without going directly through the veins. She quickly shared she currently had a portacath for a rare condition she was living with. Before I knew it, we were both sharing our very different stories of our initial healthcare experiences with our conditions. Those who know me know I don’t have any problem talking about my story. She was sharing with me how doctors from all over the southeast told her that her condition wasn’t a real condition and she was just bloated and overweight. Thankfully, she kept pursuing and finally found a doctor who verified her rare condition.
I shared with her my opposite story of how two doctors who didn’t know what was going on with my leg did something that probably saved my life. They simply told my parents and I “I Don’t Know” and followed up by referring me to someone who may know the answer. The nurse at CVS didn’t have doctors who did this. They just kept passing her over because they hadn’t seen the rare condition that affects only 6,000 people worldwide. Instead of showing compassion for her, they assumed since they didn’t know what it was, then nothing was wrong with her. We sat there and shared more anecdotes from our very different experiences but we both agreed that saying “I Don’t Know” is just as powerful as knowing the answer. You see, if my family physician and the second doctor just passed off the lump on my leg as a sports injury, I probably would not be typing this story.
I encourage you to not be afraid of saying “I Don’t Know”. In our daily lives, we are asked questions. Some of those questions require very minimum thought but some questions asked of us require some type of professional or personal experiences or expertise. When someone asks a question, the majority of people want the correct answer. Part of living life right is knowing how to say “I Don’t Know.” In my situation above, someone saying I don’t know helped save my life. The follow up to saying “I Don’t Know” is pointing the person in a direction where their question can be answered. Imagine if the nurse at CVS didn’t have the internal instinct to keep pushing. If she took the many doctors’ word or “expertise”, she may not be here right now. “I Don’t Know” is a powerful tool we should add to our arsenal of being leaders and human beings in our community. That sounds strange doesn’t it? Why would someone want to add a tool like saying “I Don’t Know” in their personal leadership toolbox? It’s simple. If you tell someone “I Don’t Know”, you free them to receive the answer they need. Giving them wrong information/answers because you don’t want to seem unintelligent is doing them a disservice and will ultimately make you untrustworthy. I encourage you to use “I Don’t Know” when those moments arise. Thanks for reading. Please Share!
My wife, Tasia King, sums up the body language of "I Don't Know" in this picture pretty well. :-)