This is a powerful statement. I believe that when you really do not know, the best thing to do is admit it. But, I have watched in fascination as people try to cover up when they do not know. Invariably, they lose credibility because if the person asking the question really wants to know, they will continue to question until the truth becomes knows: the person does not know. Why do people attempt to cover up? A few suggestions:
1. They should know. Not knowing will make them look bad.
2. They believe that not knowing is a sign of weakness. So, they will not admit it at any cost, even their credibility.
3. They are being put on the defensive. Those animal instincts of survival kick in and they fight back instead of rationally admitting the truth.
4. They think that they know, lending credence to the old saying ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’. Or in this case, ‘You don’t know that you don’t know’. I have seen this many times in technical scenarios where people blather on with a technical answer that goes around in circles and really does not answer the question. It is frustrating.
In any case, if you don’t know something – there is a simple solution:
1. If you should know, respect everyone’s time and state: “That is a great question, I should know that. (Apologize if necessary). I will get that information to you by (Insert time and date)’.
2. If you just don’t know and it is something you are not expected to know: ‘I do not know. Let me follow-up with you after the meeting. Can I get the answer to you by (Insert time and date)?’
A simple way to maintain your credibility while dealing with the question at hand. I mention all of this because a few weeks ago I got sloppy on my forecasting review and was in both situation 1 and 3. I should have simply said ‘I don’t know’.