The Power of “I don’t know”

People like to appear knowledgeable. Everyone enjoys being able to contribute to a discussion, even when they don’t know all the facts. This is evident in skimming the comments section of any online news article.

But what about when not speaking just for yourself, but instead for a company or an organization? Lying is unethical, plain and simple, and should never be a course of action when faced with a crisis situation. So, what do you do when, say, a reporter asks for information you do not have? Do you attempt to redirect to a different topic, or act as though you know an answer when you definitely do not?

It’s hard to admit you don’t know the answer when you are viewed as an expert, but that is usually the right thing to do. Naturally, if you are asked a question, you can’t just say “I don’t know. Next?” However, “I don’t have that information in front of me, but I can get back to you,” works entirely differently. In both scenarios, the question technically goes unanswered and you admit lack of information, but one of the two answers has accountability behind it. Of course, when using the second, you absolutely MUST get back to the questioner with the information they requested, or you’re back where you started.

In the end, truth wins and lying leads to consequences. According to PR Professional Jim Lukaszewski, “Somebody always knows, but waits to speak up until the worst possible time.” Which is worse: Admitting you don’t have the answer immediately to one of any hundred possible questions? Or providing false information and being called out on it in front of the world? The answer is obvious.

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