“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When something trips you up and lays you out flat on the floor, how do you react? When you screw up, insert your foot in your mouth and say or do the absolutely wrong thing – what do you do next?

We have many unspoken taboos in our society. We don’t like to think about them or admit them – after all, we’re an enlightened society, free of old-fashioned stereotypes and values, right? We’re progressive, self-confident and we are proud to be individuals. It is hard to admit our self-imposed restrictions get in the way of our own learning and growth, but get in the way they do. The following phrases are considered “no-no’s” because in today’s society it is still considered a weakness to let others see your confusion or fallibility. When someone asks a “stupid” question we snigger quietly to ourselves and are thankful that we know the answer, that we didn’t make that mistake, that we are the strong ones.

But knowledge and growth cannot be attained without questions and mistakes. Being afraid to ask the tough questions or to reveal our ignorance or fallibility is actually a weakness. It inhibits our growth and retards the learning process. Finding the nerve to say each one of these six phrases will open up the world of possibility, educate you, and encourage others to follow your lead. Say them and stand proud, don’t let anyone put you down or ridicule you – remember you are the brave one for speaking up and you will gain the most from the experience.

When others say them to you, respond in kind by respecting their questions and recognizing their quest for the answers is a marvelous strength to be nurtured and encouraged.

I Don’t Know

“The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don’t know what to do.” – John Holt

Just like many others, I was initially afraid to show my ‘ignorance’ and did my best to put forward the appearance of ‘knowing it all.’ That all changed when I was faced with huge challenges in a new job. The office underwent a computer upgrade to a new operating system and there were several new programs to learn and reports to edit ‘just so.’

For the first time in my life I found myself uttering, “I don’t know how to do that yet. Let me work on this for a while and let’s see if I can’t figure out how to make it better.” It also turned me on to how freeing saying those three words could be. I didn’t look stupid or lacking. In addition, my supervisors and co-workers were impressed with how quickly I learned the new programs and could then help them with their own program questions.

It isn’t easy to say those words. Practice them alone by yourself if it seems impossible at first. I found that the more I said them, the easier they became. I learned to push my pride aside, realizing it was hindering and not helping, and to cheerfully admit to ignorance while immediately professing my willingness to find that particular answer.

I found that doors opened where I had believed there were only walls. Over the years I had many people compliment me on my adaptability and positive attitude in each position I was in. And it all started with “I don’t know!”

Coming next week…Phrase #2 – I Need Help

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