Nathan Worden's avatar
$332.5m follower assets
How to Say "I Don't Know"
@deerpointmacro ran an incredible Space yesterday that went for 8+ hours. There was tons of great conversations— you should definitely follow Deer Point.

There was one specific dynamic I was reflecting on this morning:

No matter how much research one does on a topic, when engaging in public discourse on platforms like Twitter and Commonstock, there will always be someone who knows more than you do. This isn't a bad thing— it's actually the main reason to engage on these platforms: to find other smart people and learn from their expertise.

But because this is the case, it requires one to have a certain balance of confidence and humility. You have to be able to present your points confidently AND be ready to admit when you hit the limits of your understanding.

The thing I noticed about the Twitter Space yesterday was how good people were at communicating when they had reached their limits.

It struck me that this is a skill one learns through experience in order to keep the conversation quality high. Admitting where you lack knowledge increases credibility for where you do have knowledge. Additionally, when you admit ignorance it invites someone with more knowledge to engage. You win because you fill gaps in your knowledge and you also make other people look good. Positive sum dynamic.

With that spirit in mind, I wanted to offer up some of the vocabulary I heard yesterday. If you internalize some of these phrases and are quick to use them in situations where you have reached the limits of your expertise, I think you will find yourself leveling up as an investor, a speaker, and as a general human being 😊

How to Say "I Don't Know"

  • I'm not an expert, but this has been a recent interest of mine
  • I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer that but 'xyz' person would be great to ask
  • I'm actively learning about this, I'm all ears if you have expertise to share
  • I have my personal thoughts, but I'm not sure they'd be useful to you
  • I am ignorant on the subject
  • That's the limit of my understanding
  • Here’s what I know and here’s what I don’t know…
  • Based on my understanding, I believe that…
  • I don’t have the foggiest idea.

What are effective ways you say "I don't know?"

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sam stribling's avatar
I used to be terrified of saying “I don’t know” now, if it’s something I really am out of my depth on I have no problem saying it. In fact, I’ve found my clients appreciate it and I gain trust. Trust, in my opinion, is one of the most valuable intangibles you can have in business. The way I do it is, listen to their question/concern, ask a few clarifying questions ESPECIALLY “what do you think this information will help you do and what do you hope we can accomplish with it”. Then, I simply say, “While I do not know at the moment, now that I understand why this is valuable information to have and what we can use it for, I will find out.”

Give it a try. You’d be surprised that in most situations your credibility goes up not down!
Nathan Worden's avatar
@strib Amen! Love the example, thanks for sharing how you approach it, especially starting with listening and asking clarifying questions :)
Joshua Simka's avatar
You’d be surprised that in most situations your credibility goes up not down!

@strib I agree a lot with this point. I'm suspicious of people who have an answer for everything. As I see it, a true expert has an incredible amount of knowledge in a speciality and knows the boundary of their knowledge. I think of Buffett's circle of competence. He knows where his personal line is and invests accordingly.
Deer Point Macro's avatar
Hey Nathan, thank you so much for coming and listening. On the spaces you are right it is always good to say you do not understand. I think this is how we learn. Making sure that they are spaces where people can feel comfortable to ask questions is what is most important.
Nathan Worden's avatar
@deerpointmacro Creating a space where people feel comfortable asking questions is so important. Thank YOU for putting on the space :) Enjoyed it very much 😃
Alejandro Rodriguez's avatar
Also stopped by that space and wow... there were some very smart people in there. Some of the debates were super interesting. Lots of topics were covered from Bitcoin to macro.
sam stribling's avatar
@alejandro_r dumb question but what is the “space” / how would I go if I wanted to attend one? Is it discord? Twitter spaces?
sam stribling's avatar
Ok it’s a Twitter Space.. I have a Twitter now I just gotta figure out how to join a space lol
Alejandro Rodriguez's avatar
@strib You definitely should. Following more people will help. When someone you follow is in a space, it will appear at the top of your feed in purple, and you can join by tapping on it. If you follow Deer Point on Twitter, you'll start seeing more spaces like this.
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sam stribling's avatar
@alejandro_r ahh thanks for the tip! I’m definitely a Twitter newbie!
Alex's avatar
I think that as a student, these terms are especially important. There are times when we all do not know the answer, but I have found that my troubles only worsen if I do not admit that my knowledge on a topic only reaches a certain capacity.
Nathan Worden's avatar
@alex18 Great point— you can get yourself into some tough situations by not admitting to yourself when you don't know. Thanks Alex!
Edmund Simms's avatar
The three most liberating words in the English language: "I don't know." Followed by: "I was wrong."
Nathan Worden's avatar
@valuabl liberating is so true! And yes, "I was wrong" is another great one. Surprisingly hard for people to say though.
sam stribling's avatar
@valuabl 100-fuckin-percent the most humbling best words you can say are “I was wrong” it takes a lot of gravitas to do it too. I respect the absolute hell out of someone who can admit it.
Hedge Vision's avatar
It’s a great quality to be aware of not knowing something and admitting it. I also think it’s important to admit that you were wrong, not just in the market but in real life as well
Nathan Worden's avatar
@hedgevision So important— sometimes hard to remember in the moment, but highly respectable when people are able to do this.