How to Answer Questions When You’re Stuck

Tip 4: Turning “I Don’t Know”
Into Know-How

One of the biggest obstacles to knowing yourself better is the roadblock of indecision. In social situations, most people stop asking questions when someone responds with “I don’t know.” The questioner assumes that you genuinely don’t know. Consider this exchange between Sarah and Amy.

Amy: “I finally got invited to go to the Chicago meeting this year. I’ve been waiting forever to go, but now I feel nervous about it.”

Sarah: “What are you nervous about?”

Amy: “I’m not sure. I know Doug will be there. He scares me.”

Sarah: “Oh, why does Doug scare you?”

Amy: “I haven’t a clue – he just makes me nervous.”

Sarah: “Well don’t let him stop you. You’ve waited too long for this.”

Most conversations would end there. If you’re to go deeper, you can’t stop with “I don’t know.” So, what can you do?

Take a wild guess.

If you’re thinking “I’m not sure,” or “I don’t know,” one way to move forward is to simply guess, then proceed with the questions as if the guess IS the right answer. You can always reject the guess later if it turns out to not be the case, but nine times out of ten your guess will be spot on. You know more than you think you do.  And guessing allows the process to continue. Look what can happen when Amy takes a wild guess...

Amy: “I don’t know, he just makes me nervous.”

Sarah: “Can you take a guess why he makes you nervous?”

Amy: “Hmmm. Maybe I’m afraid he thinks I don’t deserve to be there.”

Sarah: “What do you think? Do you?”

Amy: “I’m not sure. Sometimes it feels like I’m faking it and I’m afraid people will find out I don’t know everything or that I’m not as good as I might appear!”

Sarah: “I think you’re qualified, but it doesn’t matter what I think. What do you think?”

As you can see, Amy was able to come to a better explanation for her feelings simply because she took a guess. She certainly knows more about herself now than if the conversation had ended with “I haven’t a clue.”

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Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got.

― Janis Joplin

Who you are is a necessary step to being who you will be.

- Emmanuel