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I Don’t Know- A Great Answer To Almost Everything

August 7, 2021
image via wikimedia

A co-worker asked how I was doing last week, and I said, “I don’t know.”

It just slipped out that way, but it was the truth. I really didn’t know how I was. There’s some turbulence in my personal life, and I have a lot of conflicting emotions about a lot of stuff. I had just started the work day and wasn’t sure how mentally prepared I was for the tasks ahead.

“I’m great!” would have been a lie.

“Fine” is too generic for somebody with my vocabulary.

“I can’t complain” sounds like there is a lot to complain about.

“None of your business” is a bit negative.

“I don’t know” is almost perfect. It’s the truth. Everybody knew what I was talking about. And it’s a somewhat original answer.

At least it used to be original. Now it’s my go-to response.

“I don’t know” works in most situations:


“How are you?”

“I don’t know. Ask me around 4:30.”


“What do you think about the economy?”

“I don’t know. It will either get better or get worse.”


“Who’s going to win the big game?”

“I don’t know. We’ll probably know after they play the game.”


“What are you doing with your life right now?”

“I don’t know. Hopefully it’s what God wants me to do.”


“Do I look fat in this?”

“I don’t… No, you definitely don’t look fat. You look fantastic!”


“I don’t know” is honest at least. I’ve tried faking enthusiasm, but I seem to get punished for it. The worst example was when a co-worker asked how I was doing, and I said “Great!” and then I walked face-first into a wall. I wasn’t doing so great then. “I don’t know” would have been a perfect answer because I hadn’t known that I was going to walk into a wall.

I also like “I don’t know” because too many people act like they know things that they don’t. Life became much easier for me when I realized that almost everybody is incompetent in most things. A person is lucky if he or she is an expert in one or two areas, but even then, people could still lie about their fields of expertise for their own advantages.

I spent 30 years in my field of expertise, and to my credit, I didn’t pretend to know stuff I didn’t. My “I don’t know” honesty might have worked against me a few times, if you look at things from a financial/professional perspective, but I didn’t harm anybody with my honesty.

Yes, I have my opinions. This blog is filled with my opinions. But I usually state that they’re my opinions, and I don’t pretend that my opinions are facts. Opinions are less stressful when you can admit that you really don’t know stuff.


A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about The Answer Book, a book that answered a bunch of science and history questions in long-winded fashion; at least the answers seemed long-winded at the time when I was a kid reading The Answer Book. Nobody would have bought The Answer Book if every answer in the book had been “I don’t know.”

If you want to make money from being a know-it-all, “I don’t know” isn’t a very good answer.

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