Sometimes It's Best to Say "I Just Don't Know"

I'm not sure if the case is the same for people living in other countries (perhaps those of you who live outside the U.S. can comment); however, it appears to me that most Americans seem to have a definitive answer for everything.  We tend to answer any question with "I believe...," or "This is the way...," or "I know that...," or "He/She/It will certainly..." I have rarely heard the words, "I just don't know.." or "I am open-minded..." come up in a conversation.  However, we might all benefit if we uttered the latter phrases (or something like them) more often. 

Whenever I make a definitive statement, I find it difficult to backtrack later on.  My ego-my sense of honor-are tied up in my proclamation.  For instance, I have often said, "So and so is going to be a great fantasy football pick...," and I have selected him for my team.  In those instances, I have had a difficult time benching the player when he hasn't performed well.  Even worse is when I say that some important political or cultural theory is correct; I have problems changing my opinion when new data comes out which invalidates my old way of thinking.

It wouldn't be that bad if I were the only person who acted in this manner.  However, it appears that most Americans, including our country's leaders and CEO's of Fortune 500 companies, suffer from the same issues.  They make bold statements like, "It is always bad for the country to raise taxes!" or "Such and such strategy is the best one for this company!"  These individuals find it almost impossible to agree to any plan--however beneficial--that raises taxes, or they steadfastly hold to some outdated strategic concept even as their company goes bankrupt. 

Perhaps we would all be better off if we said, "I think it is an error to raise taxes in this situation; however, I am open to raising taxes in future scenarios," or "This strategy is a good one for the company right now, but I am always open to changing my mind on the issue if the situation changes or new data comes in."  Even better, maybe we should say, "I really don't know which strategy is best.  Let's review all of the data--and I want to get your thoughts on the issue as well.  We will then make a decision based on the data we have."  When we make statements like these, we leave ourselves open to change.  We won't take any hits to our honor-our egos-if we change our plans in the future.  I know that I would be better off if I said, "I am open to change." more often. 

What do you think?


  1. Luckily I am always right, so I don't have this problem.

  2. I totally agree. I notice it a lot in the financial world. Experts and analysts are always telling people they have to put their money in the stock market through 401(k)s or IRAs or whatever, but with so many people having various financial situations, I find it hard to accept that these are always the right moves for everyone. I've noticed for example, Suze Orman seems to do this a lot with her callers. "You have to do this," or "You need to do that," or "You're crazy if you don't..." It can be a great way to sell, but in MY opinion (See what I did there? 'MY opinion'), it can lead a lot of people down the wrong path.

  3. What you are experiencing is called life in the United States. I would lke invite you to visit me at my new blog (, maybe start with "The Power Of The One". Unfortunately too many people in America are sheep and need others to lead them to where?
    Be my guest,

    Drake Gaetano

  4. What do I think? Well, I ........just don't know.

  5. Without trying to be overly assertive, I think it could help (a lot) if people would consider more than one opinion now and again.

  6. I think it takes a big person to admit they don't know something ... and most people alas, are small.