18/09/12 The careerist: Say ing ‘I don’t know’ - FT.com
www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/980004c2-fdb5-11e1-8fc3-00144feabdc0.html#...
18/09/12 The careerist: Say ing ‘I don’t know’ - FT.com
www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/980004c2-fdb5-11e1-8fc3-00144feabdc0.html#...
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The careerist: Saying ‘I don’t know’

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“I don’t know” can be one of the hardest things to admit at work. But if you can bring yourself to utter those words, they can make you look confident, competent, honest – and occasionally even elevate you above those who do know.

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The careerist: Saying ‘I don’t know’

  1. 1. 18/09/12 The careerist: Say ing ‘I don’t know’ - FT.com www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/980004c2-fdb5-11e1-8fc3-00144feabdc0.html#axzz26qf5oUdk FRONT PAGE September 16, 2012 6:17 pm The careerist: Saying ‘I don’t know’ By Rhymer Rigby “I don’t know” can be one of the hardest things to admit at work. But if you can bring yourself to utter those words, they can make you look confident, competent, honest – and occasionally even elevate you above those who do know. Why do people worry so much about not knowing? “In some industries, such as banking, you are encouraged to appear as if you understand everything and [to] develop an air of omnipotence,” says Robert Kelsey, a former banker and the author of What’s Stopping You? Sandra Cunningham, an executive coach at Outside In, adds: “Many of us carry the belief that it is our job to have all the answers and that we’ve failed if we don’t.” What problems does this cause? “Believing you should know everything can be very restrictive as it closes your mind to other sources of knowledge and other opinions,” says Ms Cunningham. “It can stifle your potential for creativity and be quite stressful. Letting go of this idea can be very liberating. If you’re a leader and manage others, it can also empower them and help them develop.” Mr Kelsey says: “It can be very dangerous. You can wind up in meetings talking about things no one understands, so the meeting is useless. On an organisational scale, it can lead to disasters like Enron. I worked with them – when you’re claiming you’re the smartest guys in the room, you can’t just admit you don’t know.” Pretending you do know is a potential minefield too, says Hazel Carter-Showell of CarterCorson, the organisational psychologists. “Sometimes it’s very obvious you’re faking it. Or you might be in a job interview, where the person interviewing you knows the area far better than you do.” What do I gain from saying I don’t know? “It’s actually incredibly effective admitting not to know things as long as you do it confidently,” says Mr Kelsey. “It’s the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. A growth mindset is where you have an attitude that you can learn.”
  2. 2. 18/09/12 The careerist: Say ing ‘I don’t know’ - FT.com www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/980004c2-fdb5-11e1-8fc3-00144feabdc0.html#axzz26qf5oUdk Printed from: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/980004c2-fdb5-11e1-8fc3-00144feabdc0.html Print a single copy of this article for personal use. Contact us if you wish to print more to distribute to others. © THE FINANCIAL TIMES LTD 2012 FT and ‘Financial Times’ are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd. You may be interested in It’s not just you either. It can be good for building relationships. Ms Cunningham says: “Allowing [others] to help you engenders trust and helps you to be more collaborative. It’s very flattering for the other person, too.” It can also make you look very confident. Ms Carter-Showell says: “If you’re in a situation where nobody understands what’s being said and you’re the person who puts up their hand, you look brave and everyone else will say: ‘Thank goodness someone asked what that meant’.” Are there times when not knowing is bad? “A lot comes back to what is reasonable to expect,” says Ms Carter-Showell. “If you’re at a board meeting and you were sent a report beforehand to read, it’s reasonable to expect you to know the report’s main points.” Once again, it is better to admit that you do not know than to feign knowledge – and this is unlikely to do you any long-term harm as long as it is an isolated incident. Online sales for iPhone 5 a sell-out Innovation ensures Apple meets demand New iPhone sales beat records Apple unveils thinner and lighter iPhone Apple nears high after unveiling iPhone

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