100 ways to say “I Don’t Know”

As a trainer/facilitator, I have learned that one of the most powerful (and scariest) things I can admit, whether it is to a single person or a roomful of workshop participants is “I don’t know”. It is one of the scariest because well, it leaves one vulnerable and admits a lack of “Omnipotent, Total Knowledge” about all things. 

It is, ironically though, those same very things that make it very powerful as well. 

It removes me from whatever pedestal the participants may have placed me on.  Bringing me, in their eyes, down to earth with them.  It allows them to see me as a person, a human being, just like them. 

One of the main jobs of a trainer/facilitator is to create a safe and supportive environment that encourages participants to explore, question, challenge, and most definitely make mistakes.  Reminding them that I am human too is one of the best ways I have found to do that.

It also creates a space where I am no longer the only person with all the knowledge, put in that room to lecture while they simply sit and absorb.  It allows the participants to share their experience and knowledge, to become actively involved with the learning, and to have a reason to stay engaged.

For myself personally, I also like that statement because it opens the door to my learning and I never know where that door will take me and what fun I will have on the adventure.

Here are some ways to say “I don’t know” that may make it easier for you.

  1. That is a great question.
  2. I have never thought of that before.
  3. I never needed that (fill in the blank) before.
  4. I have never been asked that question before.
  5. I had not thought to use it that way.
  6. Can you share a bit more about the situation or experience?

Give it try the next time you feel yourself wanting to be “The Expert in the Room”, wanting to give the impression that you have all the answers.  You just might learn something you never knew you didn’t know.

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