Saying I don’t know and have no fear of being wrong

I am delighted that my first guest post in the series is written by Peter Hros. I first met Peter through Twitter, and have since met him at a HRD conference for the day and we attended an unconference together too. Actually it was because of Peter, that one of my blog posts keeps getting views – The nonsense of not hiring the over qualified. You can connect with Peter on Twitter on the link above, and he writes his own blog called HR Beginner.

It might have something to do with the way I was raised but saying “I don’t know” was never easy to me and it was always perceived by me as a sign of weakness. I am not an expert but I feel that it has been fairly common across my whole generation and throughout the whole country where I was born, Slovakia. Being raised in socialism (idea destroyed by communists) didn’t help as the sources of information were restricted and ownership of any knowledge was definitely the way to survive.

I don’t quite remember when did it happen and surely it took longer then a eureka moment, but realising that I was wrong thinking, that admitting lack of knowledge leads to undermining my chances in life and career, was definitely the most important learning in my life.

I have been blessed ever since as I don’t stop wondering how much I can learn from saying “really?” “No way!” “I had no Idea!” “Tell me more!”

It might sound a bit cliché but those of you who follow my blog know that “cheesy” could be easily my middle name. Sorry, I can’t really stop it from happening.

Anyway, going back to the point. I realize that in professional and personal life it is very often about shifting power when sharing knowledge. I have learned however that the most fulfilling moments in my life were the ones where I felt no fear of sharing my weakness or saying “I Don’t know…” and this was most definitely followed by “…but I will find out”.

First it was hard and I have risked a lot (at least I thought I did), it appeared though that my honest response was most of the time returned with respect. It has probably had loads to do with the fact that by admitting lack of understanding I have also shown great interest to learn and listen. I have also made sure that I catch up with knowledge I have felt was important for me to engage in either discussions with friends or dealing with challenges at work.

My determination to be on top of everything does help. Where I am initially the one “not knowing” at the earliest opportunity I become one “knowing too much”. For this I can only thank to the same source that caused me trouble in the past. The fact that I used to put myself under constant pressure making sure that I don’t show any lack of knowledge, helped me to become very resourceful when looking for answers. And so, this period in my life, where I have completely misunderstood one of the best drivers of self development “knowing that I know nothing”, has actually helped me to gain great set of skills. So no regrets there at all.

There is only one learning I prize even more than this one. It is the moment I have learned not to be afraid to be wrong.

Countless amount of embarrassing situations where my ideas were dismissed instantly and very often left me with the feeling “what a loser”. Nevertheless I have realised that being right only one time out of ten was so rewarding that it was worth of being wrong nine times before that. Yes indeed I have learned to listen more and talk less but frankly, I never gave up in speaking up when I felt that I want to add something. Over the time I became more often right then wrong and for that I can only thank to all the lessons learned when I got things wrong. Hence today I have rarely hard feelings for getting things wrong. This wisdom also thought me to respect people who are mistaken and make sure they leave the meeting with “chin up”.

Over the month of February I am hosting guest blog posts and the invitation is open to all. If you’d like to take part, the question you have to answer is: What has been your biggest learning in life?


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

6 thoughts on “Saying I don’t know and have no fear of being wrong”

  1. Great, refreshing honesty about a process many of us go through as we develop confidence in ourselves – the ability to say ‘I don’t know’ is invaluable for our growth, development and authenticity!

  2. I agree with Margaret, this is such a refreshing post.

    One of my lessons in life has been to allow myself to fail, and sometimes to fail spectacularly, and not to feel diminished by it. I wish more people would allow themselves this experience. And I wish more businesses would allow their people to not know and to fail. How much they could learn!

  3. Great post Peter! I think you hit the nail on the head with the move from “I Don’t know…” and this was most definitely followed by “…but I will find out”. It takes real courage knowing that you are going in to the unknown but making a firm choice to make the most of whatever occurs and take all of the positive learning opportunities there are from it.

    As I say great post – has got me really fired up for the rest of the week! Though sadly fearful that any post I come up with will be quite trivial in comparison – yikes!

    All the best,


  4. Thank you all for your kind comments. I am a feedback driven guy and your words really keep me going. Thanks again and hope to see you again in different context.

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