Saying “I don’t know” can be one of the smartest, empowering, and most liberating things you can say during a pivotal point in any meeting. As I feel I have enough meetings (lifetime) under my belt to begin to comment on what works and what doesn’t – nothing glaringly stands out like the power of “I don’t know”
I use this phrase quite often in my office, as Andrew can vouch for, as I am a newcomer to the venture capital world – but this is not quite the context I mean for this phrase.
I have seen people stumble through a bad answer or try to piece together a coherent thought when the clear answer to a question should be “I don’t know”.
Others have extrapolated on this thinking before, and I am certainly not the first to claim it is a smart thing to say, but word hasn’t spread fast enough.
Sometimes the best questions have no right answer and are a test of how you will answer them. To say you “dont know” something makes people feel weak and helpless, but I believe the opposite is true. I believe it is harder to say “I dont know” as it takes a tough person to admit that.
Once you have stated you don’t clearly know something, you can go down hypothetical paths, show competency in strategic thinking, and thought leadership in your area. This can be much more telling than a concrete answer with only one outcome.
Disclaimer: this is clearly not a good approach to every question and can only be sparingly used as if it happens too often, that is equally as telling.
This post does not come out of a specific meeting or person but rather my experiences in meetings over the last 5 years, and directly brainstormed over the past few weeks.Marketing, Strategic thinking