My good friend and fellow marketer, Erica Holthausen of Joppa Communications wrote a compelling blog post last week that explored the intrinsic power of those all-too-familiar, three little words “I don’t know.”
Her article, titled, “Unleash New Possibilities with Three Little Words” is a concise and optimistic take on a scenario that we’ve all experienced, both inside and outside of our business lives. Inevitably, someone will ask us to comment on, participate in or engage with a particular concept or idea that we may not know much about, and we are suddenly pressed into a quandary. What to do?
As Erica suggests, there’s a certain freedom in admitting our lack of knowledge in one arena, especially if we can claim adequate competency in other areas. Logic tells us, we can’t all be experts in everything, so why profess to be? Not knowing the answer does open up new possibilities and forces us to consider other options.
This all sounds reasonable, but what if the person asking for our expert comments or participation is a potential client or someone with whom we haven’t had a chance to establish a deeper familiarity? Are we asking for trouble? Do we risk losing the fledgling connection because we have to say we don’t know? Will that prospect stop listening at the “I don’t know” part and potentially miss all the other great things we bring to the table?
Recently, I’ve been developing a relationship with another marketing company that has generously asked me to collaborate on a few projects. I’m excited about this new relationship and hopeful that it will turn into a long-term, mutually beneficial connection. All signs have been pointing in the right direction.
Then came yesterday’s email inviting me to join their team on behalf of an existing client who needs help specifically with SEO. That’s great news, right? Well, yes, and no. While, I’m thrilled that they thought of me, the reality is I don’t have the necessary depth of expertise in this particular discipline. It wouldn’t be responsible, much less honest, of me to claim it as my own.
So I quickly drafted a gracious explanation of why I could not help them with this project, while making sure to reinforce the services that I do offer in the most confident and positive tone possible. I pressed the send button and hoped for the best. I’m anticipating that they’ll appreciate me all the more for choosing candor over a cavalier attitude.
Erica so deftly asks us in her original piece, “As a professional service provider, how comfortable are you with the idea that you may not have the best answer?”
My ego may protest, but my spirit sees no other option besides finding my comfort zone in uncertainty, even if it feels risky at times. Being as frank and open, as possible, both in business and throughout all areas of my life, is the worthiest approach. After all, there will always be things I don’t know. Either I will research them myself, or seek out help from others who have the necessary experience. Both options will lead me towards more exciting opportunities and greater success.