You Don’t Have to Know All the Answers

I think a lot about things, and about what things mean and how they impact upon my life. The main reason I do this is because I want to be better, wiser, improve and learn from what happens in my life.

Do you understand what it means to express humility? Is it something that you are aware of everyday? Well, for me, the word ‘humility’ was, until recently, not a word I used in my vocabulary, in fact I didn’t really know when it would be appropriate to use in context…but now I do.

Recently at a workshop I was delivering I received some feedback from a delegate whom mentioned that she would have expected more humility to be expressed in the delivery of our content.

Humility is the ability to have a modest or low view of one’s importance.

I immediately felt as though I had been overly strong in my delivery of the content and perhaps I should have toned it down slightly. My colleague mentioned to me that you can’t always appeal to everyone, and although your presentation may appeal to the vast majority, there is always a small percentage of the audience that you won’t ‘connect’ with. It think that’s a fair assumption and I’m not here to moan or complain about it, this blog is about reflecting and learning and hopefully to try and help you learn from my experiences.

Learning Everyday

LearningEveryday_iconThe thing is, I named my company Learning Everyday, and although humility isn’t a word I have used before, the very foundation of my company is based upon the understanding that we don’t know everything and that we are willing to learn from other people. Learning everyday is a huge part of my life and I am comfortable knowing, not only that I don’t know everything, but also that others have fantastic ideas, stories, experience and knowledge and that I can learn from everyone in some way.

The following day I watched a video with Sir Ken Robinson and Eckhart Tolle about a slightly unrelated topic (which has now been removed from YouTube!).

However there is a small part of this video that caught my ear and it’s all about having the courage to admit that you don’t know the answer to something, or that you simply just don’t understand. Eckhart uses an example of the Dalai Lama being publicly asked a question of which he doesn’t know the answer to. Instead of the Dalai Lama fretting over not knowing the answer, because of his importance and the perception that he should know the answer to everything, he happily answers with “I don’t know”.

Are you comfortable not knowing?

This really got me thinking. Firstly, this has an amazing impact on the audience. Because the Dali Lama admitted not knowing, this immediately gave the audience the permission to also ‘not know’, which is a powerful thing to achieve. Most of us are not comfortable admitting we don’t know things for several reasons, here are my thoughts: –

  • We don’t want to appear stupid on unintelligent
  • We don’t want to appear as if we have some weaknesses
  • We are too proud
  • Our ego’s are too big
  • The fear of being mocked

My second though about this was about how I can make sure humility comes across in my delivery when public speaking or presenting information.

Reflecting back on the comment I received I feel I have learned something. I am always forward in admitting when I don’t know something but perhaps I can improve somehow by being more aware of humility and how others may react to what I’m saying and how I am saying it.

As a consultant I think there is a lesson to be learned, and that is to be aware of humility when not only speaking to an audience, but also when working with people one-to-one.

I spoke to my Dad about this, whom has been a consultant for many years, and he summed it up nicely – “Instead of trying to simply provide solutions, work with people to help find the solutions”, i.e. don’t feel like you need to have all the answers, but work with people to find the solutions by asking the correct questions and facilitating the creativity and thinking processes. Spot on Dad!

After reading this, what are your thoughts?

How do you behave when you don’t know the answer to something? How do you feel when you don’t understand something? Are you comfortable not knowing? Have you ever experienced the impact of humility or been in a situation where humility was not present? Please feel free to share your story and experiences.

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Personal Development Philosophy