Learning to Say "I Don't Know"

High School

In high school I was voted "most talented" as a senior superlative. Wait, that was a terribly braggadocious way to start this post. Wait, braggadocious is a terribly pretentious word to use in a blog post. Let's try this again. 

High School

In high school I had a friend tell me they voted for me to be named "most opinionated" in our senior class. She was actually really sweet about it because, as she saw it, being "the most opinionated" was a compliment. Her reasoning was that I spoke up in class a lot and always had something to say. For whatever reason, I took great offense to this near superlative (thank goodness I got "most talented" {geez Jordan, QUIT BRINGING THAT UP!!}).

The thing is that she was totally right about me in high school and to be honest, even still. I talk a lot. I have a great many opinions on a great many things and there are even some that I'm educated on. Kidding, but really I'm not that smart--just a talker. 

But there's this weird pressure in our culture to have opinions. 

I don't know exactly where it came from but my guess is the internet. That sounds like a joke and you'd be right to assume that many things I say are jokes, but not all of them and in this case it is not--in fact--a joke. Because we have access to all the information all the time, there's this implied pressure to know about everything. It happens to me all the time. And as a result, I sometimes find myself speaking about things that I really don't deserve to be speaking about and I think that happens to other people too. 

For instance, I was recently in a meeting with a group of very experienced, very smart people who were trying to make a very difficult decision and at one point it was asked what I thought of the matter. Anyone who has ever met me probably knows that I don't sit still while group conversation is going on. I like to speak and listen and have probably never gone through an entire discussion without saying something (I'm starting to understand the whole "most opinionated thing"). But in this particular scenario I was silent until asked to speak. 

And when asked, I gave my opinion in the most concise and honest way I knew how, but I found myself very uncomfortable because I didn't believe I deserved to have a say in the matter. 

Platform does not legitimize opinion 

The truth is that I don't know much about much. I have a Facebook page, a blog, a twitter account, and therefore the digital means to reach thousands of people with every single bit of crap that comes to my head. But that doesn't mean that all my opinions deserve time in front of your eyes.

The only things I feel truly comfortable writing about are the experiences of my life and the ways they've impacted me. I can talk to some extent about marketing, or the music business, but you'd be much better served reading adweek, adage, or mashable. 

I don't know but I will find out 

I'm learning that it's ok to not have an opinion on everything. In fact, I'm starting to think that not having an opinion (or at least not broadcasting it) is better than showcasing a short sided one. So I'm learning to say, "I don't know" because that's really not such a bad thing to say. 

At my college job, I was told to answer all questions I didn't know with, "I don't know, but I will find out." That may be the best answer to all questions. As a young person in the workplace, the last thing I want to do is put my foot in my mouth (which I've done--a few times) because I didn't take the time to think through the options. 

So I want to empower you today to say, "I don't know." 

What do you think?