A long time ago I was at a gathering and people started talking about political topics and people I had no clue about. At some point, the seemingly smartest guy in the room looked at me as if to make sure I understood and agreed. I pursed my lips, squinted my eyes and gave him a reassuring nod. I literally had no idea what they were talking about.

After that, I promised myself I wouldn’t fake it anymore. And yet I still probably do it a bit today. Most often, I am proud to say that I don’t have any idea what they are talking about, but that I am interested to learn more. The funny thing is that somewhere along the way I become somewhat popular. 

I had a sales trainer who tipped me off on this trick. He said he could go to a party, ask a bunch of questions, and never have one person ask him about his life. He was the most popular guy in the room, yet they always would say, “I really liked that guy. What was his name again?” 

Faking it has become the norm within our social interactions. That’s not necessarily all bad. A lot of the time we pretend as a way of displaying manners. We feign joy for someone else’s accomplishment or act like we are delighted in seeing someone because it is gracious.

In other words, there are moments we fake a form of kindness.
But the ever-present need to spare ourselves embarrassment and pain can lead to actions that create bigger problems altogether. We can fall into a pattern of using deception to guard against feeling uncomfortable. Over time, the habit of not admitting you don’t know something can start to define you. It can lead to shirking responsibilities and avoiding vulnerability—behaviors that drive us further from real connections and better versions of ourselves. 

We pretend to know stuff for fear of being rejected or not fitting in. Our mass insecurity and the “selfie” world doesn’t allow us the opportunity to be honest and true. Heck, we even pretend not to know stuff that we actually do so that we don’t lower our cachet. For example, we wouldn’t dare admit to watching “The Bachelor” because it might taint the sophisticated personal brand we want people to know.

We are not defined by our emotions. It is our right to have feelings. But our responses, which do define us, are our choice. And while the fear of being vulnerable is at the core of admitting we don’t know something, we probably worry more that we won’t survive if we don’t know something. Our efforts to compensate for both social and psychic fears manifest in some pretty interesting ways.

We need to operate from a position of hope and realize that when we say, “I don’t know,” we might just be opening ourselves up to a greater understanding of the world.

As a tactic, we believe that publishing offers you and your business a wonderful way to be comfortable with not knowing. It gives you a chance to be vulnerable and say, “I don’t know.” It affords you the chance to be the most popular person in the room without knowing. Why would you not want to use that kind of process to engage?