In the story of everything there are a few parts that we, as a civilization, have not discovered; as well as many more parts that I personally don’t know. But the phrase, “I don’t know” (IDK) seems kind of negative inherently. I prefer to say “I’ve discovered a gap in my knowledge.”
Imagine your knowledge as a massive jigsaw puzzle that has a lot of pieces in some areas but there are still gaps. Some gaps are so big that you can’t figure out what the whole image in that area is. But when you come across that gap, you’ve at least discovered some nearby pieces and have the language skills to fill in that gap. Instead of getting upset that you don’t know something, treat those moments as an opportunity to expand on your constantly growing, constantly sharpening picture of our universe and society and our place within them both.
Envisioning your knowledge as a jigsaw puzzle also gives you a perspective that is looking from the bottom up. You understand a lot more of the world and the people in it than you did a few years ago. IDK approaches the situation in a top down perspective, highlighting your lack of knowledge making you feel lesser. A Cub Scout doesn’t look at their sash and focus on the amount of uncovered sash remaining; they are too excited about the next badge they’ll get to stick on!
Saying IDK is a great experience if you choose it to be: you are off the hook for hiding information AND you get to learn something. Remember, learning is completing neural clusters and the act of synapsing neurons leads to a release of pleasure. You’re about to get some pleasure, good job for getting that lined up! But first, you have to complete a task or else all your hard work socializing will be for nothing.
The task: ask a question. If you don’t know something and someone else brings that thing up, they probably know about it. You both probably know the same language and have relatively capable communication skills. When I have a conversation, I don’t like to leave until I have learned something that I didn’t know before. Whether it’s about that person’s day, or some fact or story they’ve heard or read.
Okay, let’s say you’ve recognized a gap in your knowledge and effectively communicated your desire to gain specific information. Now it’s on the listener to come up with a reasonable manner in which to communicate the portion of your gap that they know. They might choose to develop that information into a lecture or spout out facts or even relate it to a personal experience. The process of forming words and coherent sentences solidifies the idea further.
Most people would agree you learn most about a subject when you teach it. It’s true, but the reason is because your students continue to challenge your knowledge so you are forced to fill in gaps and adapt your method of communication. It’s helpful to have external devices, like words, to solidify the memory so you have fewer incomplete neural clusters.
Alright, let’s say they gave an answer. Your next task is to interpret the words and sentences that are being formed for you and place them comfortably within your own puzzle picture. Be patient and let the speaker take advantage of silence to form a completed thought.
Ask questions at the end or for instant clarification of a phrasing. We don’t all share the same vocabulary, but we do possess the skills to effectively communicate anything even without the verbal shortcut. Someone might come from a different background and have different opinions from you but there is a reason for those opinions if you focus and empathize, you will both learn and release pleasure from the experience. Share your own knowledge to switch the roles and release pleasure in a different way. The whole process is called a good conversation, and it’s probably the quickest way to a new friendship.
Our intelligence came from generations of our ancestors practicing and honing their brains as they experimented and communicated information about their world. It is how we’ve discovered the parts of our universe that we cannot even see and how we found a way to manipulate those tiny parts. You’re reading this because we can manipulate electrons and photons to act as messenger signals sent from elsewhere.
When we understand our world, we can control our world. First we must be willing to admit IDK to get to the point of total understanding and total control. We must continue to hone our intelligence, the adaptation that led to this astounding point in history. Not knowing something only means you have knowledge to gain and it is our knowledge gives us our best chance of reaching eternity.