What a heavy weight it is take on the role of knowing everything. I’m not talking about self improvement or continuing education. I’m talking questions and conversations that remove you from your lane of focus. There is power in the words I don’t know and it is a power that can sometimes feel and sound like a weakness. It is not. It is a response that can be used in so many situations to save you from unnecessary burdens big and small. The small requests never seem like a big deal but i’m here to tell you that they add up. I have this thing where i’m always trying to prove my usefulness and validate the value that I bring. In doing so the opposite effect happens because I cheapen myself and my time. I’m very proud that I now have the clarity to recognize this on my own but there is work to do on my part to correct this. I’ve added this to my therapy talking points to dig deeper into the why. Here are some personal examples of success and failure.
Success Example #1 : The other day I received a text from one of our Sales Reps asking me what time it was in Canada. I should tell you that I’m not from Canada nor have I ever been so I have no clue why he asked me but he did. The me that I am instantly began pulling up this info on my phone. The same phone he sent the text to from his phone which in 2019 surely has the same access to the internet that I had. Within 5 seconds I texted him back – I don’t know (ask Siri). I didn’t add the ask Siri part but the point is this was not my question to field. Yes, it would’ve taken me a few seconds to get the answer but who knows how many minutes would’ve truly been lost if I was fully distracted from what I was doing at the moment and then tried to reset my brain back to where I was before the trivia question was asked. One trivia question turns into two and then the bonus round starts. Newsflash – there is no prize in said bonus round. I felt empowered and free because I opted not to pick up that bag which contained NOTHING of value. I owned my time not someone else. Answering would not have helped him either because this was something that was at his fingertips that he had access to reach out and grab. I have also found that I have a tendency to take on things for others even if I have no logical or obvious way to make the thing happen. I’ll take it on anyway because I don’t want someone else to struggle with trying to figure it out. As I type this i’m saying aloud “What kind of fragernacklebulls**t is that? My success rate in this area is pretty low but I’m getting my average up by using the 3 big words.
Failure Example #1: I once had a friend who would ask nearly every semester about class schedules for school. I should tell you I wasn’t employed by the school but whenever I was asked I would look up the upcoming schedule and provide a list of options for class times. This person never ended up registering for any of the options. I believe they finally ended up taking this one class that lingered years later based on their own desire and findings. The thing about this was that I could’ve just said I don’t know and avoided the feelings that I experienced. Because I provided the info so many times, I became mentally invested in whether they took the class or not. I’d taken time on several occasions to look up the info. I remember feeling some sort of way when they didn’t register because my time was wasted. A simple I don’t know would’ve caused them to look it up themselves (or not) or find another Academic Advisor who actually got paid for this sort of work.
Success Example # 2: A coworker came up to me and said “Why is Catherine dressed like that?” Without hesitation I used the 3 big words….I don’t know. This blocked his path to pettiness and let him know that I was not here for it. My answer also was 100% true. I didn’t know why Catherine was dressed the way she was and I raise that by the fact that I didn’t care. Do you see how simple that was? Path blocked! No extra traffic today sir. I’m learning more and more everyday that I don’t need to be the answer for everyone. I don’t need to always be the sounding board, the resource, or the concierge. It’s a difficult habit to break especially when so many people come to me daily with various questions. I don’t like the look of disappointment when they don’t get what they need but what should be more important than that is not liking the feeling I have when I try to be everything to everybody.
This big 3 also work when you’re in situations where you make assumptions by default.
Default Example: I’m behind someone at a red light and the light turns green. I see that they are on the phone and I hit the horn and lean on it because they didn’t take off as soon as the light turned green. I have no idea if this person just received an emergency call with bad news. I have no idea if this is the call of a lifetime that this person had been waiting months/years for. I HAVE NO IDEA. Rather than change my energy and maybe that of the other person, I can avoid this.
*Please note there is a 7 second rule to this chill factor and while I won’t lean on the horn to relay frustration over them not moving, a light double tap may occur as a courtesy. I’m still a work in progress.
I’ve not quite figured out how to apply these words in motherhood because my kids seem to think I am a wealth of knowledge and I more than kinda like that. The next time you find yourself trying fill a void or make assumptions about someone else, think about the energy and space you’re giving up to give them what they need. Evaluate if it’s worth the trade. They might not like your response but they will eventually gain an understanding of how you move and begin to respect it. Worst case is they’ll not want to deal with you moving forward. Did I say worst case? Correction – BEST CASE!