When You Don’t Have the Answer

[May 28, 2023]  If you don’t have the answer, don’t pretend you do.  Yes, I know; the most hated words someone can say is, “I don’t know.”   But the shortest way to lose credibility is to claim you do know.

Nothing is more frustrating for someone pretending they know something when they do not.  No one is expecting you to have all the answers.  However, it seems to be in our human nature to resist admitting we don’t know something.

Why we habitually pretend they have answers when we don’t is something psychologists have studied for a long time.  My thinking is that they do it because it’s comfortable.  Simple, that’s right, they do it to be happy; just like much of what we do, it fits with our leadership style.  Not knowing is chaos, and not knowing is enforced uncertainty.

This is also about having moral courage.  You must get your act together early in your life.  It takes courage for someone to take heat for not knowing something when you should.  If faced with a problem, the only answer is to be honest and straightforward with that fact.

If you don’t have the answer, here are some tips:

  • Recognize that there will be times you don’t have the answer.
  • Don’t make assumptions about the problem. Go the extra mile to gather factual information.
  • Be honest and admit you don’t know the answer.
  • Be gracious about it. Remember that it’s your conduct, not your knowledge, that makes you a good person.
  • Show follow-through by getting the answer. Complex problems will take time to get the answer, but it shows persistence.

You are not all-knowing, perfect, or faultless.  This is called humility, and it is appreciated.  Being frank and honest is always respectable and shows that you understand the frailty of being human.

—————

Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

14 thoughts on “When You Don’t Have the Answer

  1. Eye Cat

    When You Don’t Have the Answer …. maybe there is a time you will just have to punt the ball, if you don’t know. Guessing and getting it wrong, a common occurance, just makes you look stupid.

    Reply
  2. Patriot Wife

    🙏😌🧎‍♀️ MEMORIAL DAY is tomorrow…. never ever forget.

    Reply
    1. American Girl

      I’ll be there and making sure my kids and husband are there too. We would never miss any Memorial Day.

      Reply
  3. Purse

    Folks, tomorrow is Memorial Day. Be sure to attend a ceremony. There are many to chose from. Go there and pay attention and maybe you will learn something.

    Reply
  4. Obama Cash

    Once again, Gen. Satterfield nails it. Also, I will pile on here and recommended, yep, highly recommend both of his books. I got both. I have read each twice and get out of them each time. Thanks for letting me preach a bit but these books are more than worth the price.

    Reply
  5. Greg NH

    “People need boundaries to be set especially when they are young. Those who have never had their behaviors challenged often grow up highly sensitive to others who challenge them later in life. ” – Gen. Satterfield. If you don’t know this yet, you are in deep do do.

    Reply
    1. Pink Cloud

      Yes, and get Gen. Satterfield’s book “55 Rules for a Good Life” if you want a real education on how to be a good person who has a fantastic life.

      Reply
    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Pllffffft, almost spit my morning coffee out my nose.

      Reply
    2. Lady Hawk

      This is exactly the opposite of what we teach our entitled little brat Gen Zers. They just run off at the mouth because they have never been told to STFU or told “no” by an adult. Go figure they are so screwed up. Looks at what real priviliged and zero real challenges does to you.

      Reply
      1. Winston

        Nothing a good ass whuppin couldn’t fix.
        https://www.theleadermaker.com/getting-an-ole-fashioned-ass-wuppin/
        The thing my friends and I feared more than anything else while growing up, except our parents disapproval, was that we might get an ole fashioned ass wuppin’. We feared it not because someone might physically beat us so thoroughly that we couldn’t walk but because it meant we were caught doing something so stupid that truly hurt someone else. An ass wuppin was delivered to only teach an important lesson.

        Reply
        1. Linux Man

          Ass wuppin’: also known as an “old fashioned ass whopping,” beating, hard spanking, etc. A few decades ago, they also called it “getting the tar beat out of you.”

          Reply

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