Have you ever been asked a question by someone and found yourself answering “I don’t know”? I see this often, and have been guilty of it myself in the past. What I find is that in times of crisis – or when something feels that way – we may not really know an answer; it’s as if the brain freezes and we can’t find the words to express ourselves.
Another possibility is that we have the answer but we ‘really’ don’t want to say it, out of worry over the response from the person asking. It’s as if we already ‘know’ what they will say or how they will react – “I don’t want to hurt their feelings,’ or ‘They are going to be so mad at me.’ We are mind-reading at this point and predicting the result, both of which are defense mechanisms meant to protect us.
If we hurt another’s feelings, we then have to deal with the guilt or shame we may feel; if someone gets mad at our words or actions, we then have to atone or may hide from them if we avoid conflict. When we don’t like the negative feelings that may result in confronting a situation, we will do all we can to avoid it. There are some who fear the initial response from the other person that they either don’t think about or don’t care that the end-result can be worse if the person finds out. So, I don’t know becomes not telling you how much you slighted me, to now dealing with you’re not speaking to me.
The funny thing is, as well, that we do this with ourselves. We hide our own feelings when we don’t want to be disappointed, get angry, get hurt, etc. How many times do you say “I don’t know” when asked where you want to go eat or what you want for dinner? We do have the answers but are fearful of saying them, which is the task at hand:
- go back and look at all the times when you said or thought, “I don’t know” – tally them up and you may be surprised at how often we say this phrase (i.e. ‘what do I want to eat”‘ ‘what time do I want to get up?’ etc.)
- asses these times and who was involved; what were the underlying thoughts or fears that you are afraid to let out. These are the root-causes(s) and now can be dealt with
- Now, take each of these situations and reframe them with saying what is really on your mind, not worrying about the response or the result. See how it ‘feels.’ Come up with assertive responses to resolve the issue
Those are some simple but effective steps to finally be able to say your thoughts/feelings and no worry about the reactions you gt. Being assertive means you can express yourself but you are not doing it at the expense of someone else. By using these steps, you can now feel free by releasing “I don’t know” from your vocabulary and feel freer to be you.