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How often have you answered a question with the words “I don’t know?”

It’s often a stock answer to a question that you find challenging, or it may be that question has taken you into an area you’d rather not enter. Maybe you’d have to show vulnerability, or own up to the fact that you really don’t have any information on the subject that’s being discussed.

It may be that you have too much information and don’t know where to start, so your answer reflects your confusion. Or it may be that the subject is off limits or is a ‘taboo’, one that you feel uncomfortable discussing.

If you were to work with a coach, one of the things that coach would do would be to have you discover why you ‘do not know’. Whilst the reason for your not knowing may point you to discover ways that you process information, it is even more important that you figure out for yourself why you ‘do not know’ as that will lead you to finding out what it is that it is blocking you from accessing your own answers.

Let’s use a practical example. In a recent coaching session, a senior Executive whom I was coaching was unable to answer the question “What do your employees think about your leadership style?” Whilst he answered that he did not know, in effect what he was saying is that he did not want to know because that information may place him in an unfavourable light.  His answer was based on fear. He had shrugged off comments from his team that he didn’t really seem to listen and that he had a dictatorial style, so rather than exposing that information or what may be perceived as a weakness, he simply gave the standard “I don’t know”.

Now, if you’re really serious about self development and growth – about being all you can be, then surely answering this question would be a valuable step in your growth. It may shed light on what it really is that you need to be dealing with. Even if it is hard. Especially if it is hard. Because that will stretch you to uncover a part of yourself that you may not have discovered yet.

Imagine a child. If you gave your child the answer every time they did not know, would you really be contributing to their growth? Sure they may have to exert a bit more brain power working out why they did not know, and if it truly is due to a lack of information – fantastic. Then you can help them find that information. But they would own the journey, and their learning.

So it is with us – when someone else gives us the answers, they stop our growth. So rather than choose the road which blocks your learning, how about challenging yourself to try identify what lies behind the reason for your not knowing. Whether it is ignorance, fear, confusion, incompetence, a taboo, confused priorities or vulnerability, identifying what it is may be the next step you need along your path to being more.

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