“The beginning of wisdom is the statement ‘I do not know.’ The person who cannot make that statement is one who will never learn anything.”
― Keith R.A. DeCandido
Real estate agents feel they need to portray confidence, knowledge, and expertise. But what happens when you don’t know the answer to a question, or don’t know how to fix a problem? Is it better to guess and keep your clients and colleagues believing you know what you’re doing? Or is saying “I don’t know” better than guessing?
Saying “I Don’t Know” is Better Than Guessing
As humans, it’s hard to admit we are unsure about an answer. But acknowledging you don’t know can actually be beneficial for both your business and your personal development.
Guessing Damages Your Credibility
Have you ever encountered someone who said they knew the answer, but then clearly had incorrect information? Did you trust that person more or less after that interaction?
Pretending we know the answers often backfires. When we guess, we’re bound to get it wrong at least some of the time. And when we get it wrong, our clients and coworkers notice.
Incorrect information damages your credibility. If you don’t have your clients’ trust, you’re not going to succeed in the real estate business. Client relationships are everything in real estate. If clients and coworkers can’t trust you, they’re going to find help somewhere else.
So, while admitting you don’t know might feel difficult, it’s far easier than losing your business because you couldn’t eat a slice of humble pie.
Intellectual Humility Makes Us Learn and Grow
When you admit you don’t know, you’re actually setting yourself up for future success. A Behavioral Scientist study found that those who admit they are unsure – therefore acknowledging “intellectual humility” – tend to show greater intellectual and social growth over the course of their lifetimes.
The study found that those who could admit their intellectual shortcomings were more motivated to learn. Therefore, over time, intellectual humility actually increases knowledge, because it forces us to seek out answers, learn new things, and be open to expanding our expertise.
On the other hand, those who pretend to know the answer when they are unsure stymie their intellectual growth and close themselves off to new knowledge and experiences.
Saying “I Don’t Know” Encourages Others to Do the Same
When you admit you are unsure about something, you might unknowingly change those around you. By saying you don’t know, you’re giving both professional colleagues and clients permission to do the same.
Identifying our strengths and weaknesses helps us recognize where we can help others, and where we need help ourselves. When you recognize that you don’t know, but reach out to someone who does, you’re validating the other person’s strengths. And that can be incredibly powerful for both of you.
Saying “I Don’t Know” Shows You’re Committed to Excellence
When you tell your clients you don’t know the answer, but you’ll find out, you’re showing them that you’re dedicated to providing accurate information. Clients and coworkers will see that you’re committed to excellence and you want to provide accurate answers.
That is, you’re sending the message that you aren’t perfect, but perfection is your goal. And you’ll do whatever it takes to find the right answers, solve the problem correctly, and do the job well.
What to Say Instead of “I Don’t Know”
Even after all this information, it might be hard to utter the phrase “I don’t know.” We get it: being unsure can make you feel foolish, unqualified, and inexperienced. If that’s the case, try incorporating these phrases instead:
- That’s a great question.
- I have the same question.
- That’s the first time I’ve been asked that question! Mind if I do some research and get back to you?
- I will ask someone who knows more about this than I do.
- I will find out the answer to that for you.
- That’s an interesting question. I will definitely look into that and come back to you.
Real estate success comes from fostering customer relationships, mutual trust, and hard work. Saying “I don’t know” is better than guessing, because you’re building credibility. You’re making yourself more relatable to others, too. Because none of us have all the answers.
The hard part is admitting that fact.
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