I was recently engaged in a conversation and the person I was speaking to brought up something that I had heard about but didn’t know much about. I acted as though I knew more than I did, which, given the circumstances became very obvious rather quickly.
As I reflect I question why my immediate response is not to get curious and ask more questions. I would have appreciated and learned from her perspective. Granted, there are times when we just do not want to be involved in a conversation and it is going to be quicker not to ask questions. I think sometimes that is why we pretend to know more than we do. But the bigger reason is that we fear a feeling of ignorance. We think we will be perceived better if we know more.
But rarely can we hide. Rarely can we pretend to know something and get away with it. And that is going to affect us negatively internally and we will surely be perceived even more poorly.
This is a skill that I believe comes with time because how we respond in that instant is an instinct. As I reflect I certainly wish that I had asked questions and not responded the way that I did.
I recently took a course about communication geared towards attorneys. We talked about the fact that many attorneys feel pressure to know all the answers. It is a barrier to our ability to connect well with clients. As an estate planning attorney, I view my role as that of counselor. But I can never get to the point I’m counseling another to make a decision if we do not both understand what it is that their goals are. What’s more, in my experience people are receptive to honesty. And while some clients might think that an attorney should have all the answers, most understand that we do not and will appreciate our acknowledging we don’t know so long as we follow up with the answer.
Do you ever find yourself pretending to know instead of asking questions? Or have you overcome it and how? Or perhaps you have the lucky gift of not having this conundrum at all.