The 5th Best Phrase You Can Say
“I don’t know”
(People with the humility to begin a different path)
A few weeks ago we did a series on “The 5 Worst Phrases You Can Say.” This week we’re doing the opposite, trying to highlight phrases that, in my experience, are the most helpful in creating positive change. (Of course, all of these can be decidedly unhelpful if said a certain way, but I’m using them in the best contexts.)
Today’s is the 5th most helpful: “I don’t know.”
Whenever I walk with people through a problem, I’m always interested to learn of their attempted solutions thus far. Why? Because most of the time, it’s our attempted solutions that have turned an acute crisis into a chronic problem. We think we know what the problem is, so we set out to fix it, and then we’re shocked to find out it’s getting worse.
You know you’ve done this whenever you find yourself saying “If only…” a lot.
- “If only my husband would just pay more attention to me…”
- “If only my son would just apply himself at school…”
- “If only these folks would just make better decisions…”
These are the words of certainty; you know the diagnosis and the prescription, but for whatever reason it’s not working.
Maybe you don’t know. Maybe your diagnosis is way off. Maybe your way is not the right way.
Whenever my clients finally say “I just don’t know,” I believe change is coming. They are ready to humbly lay down their ideas of how to fix it, and they are open to explore a new way. Then, hopefully, we work together to find that new path.
Try it today. What problem have you been desperate to fix, wondering why others aren’t cooperating and why your efforts are working? Start with this: “Maybe I don’t know the best way; who can I call to help me see it differently?”
Peace begins with pause,