This is why saying “I don’t know” is so powerful

We currently live in an ultra-modern world of tremendous new discoveries and complete access to knowledge and information.

Answers to questions, solutions to everyday problems — all but a click of a mouse away.

Admitting to a lack of knowledge is seen as a failure. In fact, it is a strength.

What if I tell you that by refusing to acknowledge your ignorance, you are actually stopping yourself from improvement and enlightenment?

That in fact, practicing a sense of “intellectual humility” is absolutely necessary for your journey to becoming a smarter individual.

Let me tell you why the phrase “I don’t know” is so powerful and all the reasons you should start saying it more often.

1. It is more connected with the reality of our existence.

Fundamentally, we don’t ever just know the answer. In fact, science is built upon a process that starts in hypothesizing. Theories need to be disputed until we can all consider them facts. And every knowledge that is out there continuously needs to be challenged so we can advance and better ourselves.

“As soon as we actually say, “I know the answer,” we’re going against the reality of the world we live in. We don’t know what’s we going on. When we say “I don’t know” we are more connected to how things actually are.”

Let’s take history, for example. For centuries, humans were trapped in religion. And everything that we were taught was written in stone. We were told that the world was created a certain way. And we were not allowed to question anything.

However, when people like Galileo started to admit human’s ignorance, he opened our species to the possibility — no, the wonderful guarantee — that there is a wonderful universe out there, and that earth is but only a tiny speck of it.

2. When you consistently use this phrase, you approach the world with a more open mind.

This interesting study on intellectual humility measured its correlation with high school students’ motivation to learn. And what they found was eye-opening.

“We found that the more intellectually humble students were more motivated to learn and more likely to use effective metacognitive strategies, like quizzing themselves to check their own understanding.”

The truth is, whenever you feel like you know the exact answer to something, you close yourself off to any possibility of new information. But when you do admit that you don’t know everything, you allow yourself to openly learn things.

But it is more powerful than that. Consciously and consistently admitting that you don’t know makes you want to learn new things. You wire your brain to be more open to the world around you.

And this wide-eyed sense of curiosity can only help you become a better human being.

3. It gives you a sense of security.

Modern society teaches us the opposite. Knowledge is power, that is true. And as humans, we are in constant battle towards finding the truth.

But admitting your lack of knowledge does not make you weak.

In fact, consistently admitting the phrase, “I don’t know” gives you a sense of security and yes, power.

It means you will be wrong less often. It allows you to live an honest life.

By consistently practicing intellectual humility, you free yourself from the burden of having to maintain a lie that is quite exhausting to carry. It is another step towards authenticity.

Acknowledging that you don’t always know everything can only become defeatist if you approach it wrong. But these words are great to live by because they make you want to be better, to know better, and to change for the better.

The phrase “I don’t know” can be the most empowering thing in your life if you follow it with “but I am going to find out.”

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Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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