It’s Fair to Say “I Don’t Know”

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It’s Fair to Say “I Don’t Know”

Nobody can ever be expected to know everything about everything at the moment they need to know it. Yet, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about medical providers – and health advocates, too – it is that there is a major reluctance to say “I don’t know.” It’s as if the fact that they don’t know something reflects on their ability to be useful. As if they are “less” because the answer isn’t right there in the front of their brains and rolling off their tongues. I just don’t think that’s true or fair. Whether it’s the psychology of dealing with patient-clients, or the databanks of information about any specific disease, to the ability to predict an outcome, to the “facts” of health and medicine (remember when margarine was better for you than butter?), the amount and nature of knowledge changes from minute-to-minute to day-to-day to year-to-year.  There is no one in this world that can know everything or have every answer at any given moment. Therefore, it’s absolutely fair to say, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure,” as long as it is followed by, “But I’ll try to get the answer for you,” or “But we can look that up together,”  or some other promise to acquire the information. Yet, I have watched and listened to providers (the most arrogant of them) give a half-answer, or a non-answer, or even an invented answer, rather than admit they aren’t up-to-date on something.  You have, too. Further, I’ve heard from advocates who are afraid to pull the trigger to go into business because they are afraid they don’t know as much as they think they should know. (There is a good chance they’ll never know enough – because their personal bars are set so high that their goals will be unattainable.) Admitting you don’t know something, but that you’re willing to work toward getting the right answer, is an honest, and appreciated response to a question from a patient-client or his/her caregiver: Client:  I’m thinking I’d like to review a video of the surgery I’m scheduled for next Tuesday.  Do…


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