Benefit from Learning to Say, “I Don’t Know”

One of the best pieces of advice I have received in my career is that I should be more willing to admit when I don’t know something. I had a bad habit of making it seem like I had everything figured out when I didn’t. One can only speculate on why I did this, but I can specifically identify its consequences. I hampered my ability to identify learning opportunities, limited my opportunities to be mentored, and eroded trust in my working relationships. Identifying the limits in my own knowledge has benefited my professional development.

Opportunities For Personal Growth

Admitting to yourself that you don’t know something is an important factor in adopting a growth mindset. By identifying holes in your knowledge, you are also identifying areas you can grow. I’ve found that I am unlikely to fill gaps in my knowledge that I haven’t identified. Inversely, if I am identifying what I don’t know, it’s easier for me to go out and discover something new.

Opportunities For Mentorship

Being unwilling to admit you don’t know something limits your opportunities to be helped. If your colleagues aren’t aware of what you don’t know, it’s difficult for them to offer you help. Once I made this realization, it became easy and exciting to admit I didn’t know something because I knew it could lead to a learning opportunity.

Maintain Trust With Coworkers

By being unwilling to admit I didn’t know something, I began to erode my coworkers’ trust. I would often pick up a task, and be unwilling to admit I didn’t know what I was doing. This caused tasks to take too long or not meet requirements. This happened frequently enough that it led to me getting this feedback since it was hard to view me as a dependable coworker. By keeping your gaps in knowledge to yourself, your colleagues won’t know what to expect from you. On the flip side, if you admit you don’t know something, but you can take the time to learn it, others’ expectations of you become more realistic. They’ll either be able to understand there’s overhead in learning the task, take the time to do the task themselves, or offer their mentorship!

At first, it may be difficult to admit to yourself and others that you don’t know something. However, once you can, you have put yourself on a path of growth and long-term improvement.