While we know that the first step to understanding is being willing to say “I don’t know,” many find it hard to make this admission.
A great example of how to express uncertainty with confidence is highlighted in this recent Forbes article. In response to a question in a recent interview, author Ta-Nehisi Coates said:
“I’m gonna talk about what I don’t know. And listen, here’s the thing that happens. You are well-researched and knowledgeable about one thing that you’ve been thinking about a long time and you’ve been reading about a long time. That does not make you well-researched and knowledgeable about all things… I get this title, ‘public intellectual,’ and I don’t like it, because what it sounds to me is, like, people who B.S. They’re smart about one thing, and so they play into this notion that they’re smart about everything else.… If you want to ask me about writing, I can [talk about it] up one side, down the other. I got you. I’m with you because I’ve struggled with that.”
With this, Coates acknowledges his own expertise, while owning his unfamiliarity of the topic at hand.
The article also illustrates helpful tips for how to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty as building blocks for research. One tip, in particular, echoes Zebra Strategies’ mission statement:
“Remember that often your greatest gift is not your knowledge, but your ability to listen and reflect. Expertise is inherently limited; curiosity is boundless.”