What To Do When You Don’t Know The Answer?

by | Jul 29, 2020 | Public Speaking | 31 comments


If I asked you a question and if you don’t know the answer, will you still try to answer? Or will you say I don’t know? 

What Do You Do?

Now, I have so many friends in my life. If I ask them anything, they will try to answer. But if they don’t know the answer, they don’t know the answer. They will still try to answer. I was one of them, especially with my child. I remember so many years if my son used to ask me any question, I would try and answer. Of course, why not? I’m his dad. I have to answer all of his questions. 

But then something happened that day and that incident changed my perspective and I learned something from that incident. And as a storyteller, whenever I learn something, it becomes my responsibility to share with you.

Arnav Didn’t Trust Me

I was with my son. He’s 11 years old that day in a small grocery shop. And I was busy shopping and he showed it from behind, “dad I want to buy this cold drink.” 

I looked behind him and said, “No, son, this is not good for you.” He said, “No, dad, I want to buy it.” “Remember this is not good for you,” I said, and then he did something which really made me very angry. He went to the shopkeeper and asked him, “Uncle is this good for me? Can I drink this?” I know shop owners will say not say No to this question. 

I got really angry. I raised my hand; slipped it in my back pocket, took the wallet, and bought that bottle. 

Why The Lack of Trust?

Later I was thinking about this incident and why my son didn’t trust me. I told him very clearly that this is not good for you. Why didn’t he trust me on this? And then I got the answer to this question. When I revisited my beautiful journey with him for almost six to seven years, when he started asking questions to me, I realized I was answering all his questions. 

Dad, how many players in football? I am a cricket lover. I don’t know anything about football. My response: “I think 12 players”. 

We Were Building Distrust

Okay. Dad, why can’t we swim like fish? Come on now, we can’t swim like fish because we are not fish. We are humans. 

Dad, why do we yawn? I don’t know. Come on. When we are born, we are young. 

Whether I know the answer. I don’t know the answer. I’m his dad. I have to answer everything. But when he’s going back to his own world, he’s learning from his swimming teacher that we cannot swim and breathe like fish because our lungs do not have enough surface area to absorb enough oxygen from water.

Arnav Double Checked

He’s learning from his friends that there are 11 players on a football team. 

He’s learning from his science teacher that we yawn because whenever we are tired, we don’t dig deep breathing and we need more oxygen. So we yawn to take more oxygen inside our body. 

And then whenever he’s listening to these correct answers, he must feel, so dad was wrong. 

I Was So Wrong

So sometimes dad is wrong. Sometimes dad is right, but when is dad wrong and when is dad right? And when you get in this kind of situation, you lose trust. 

When I said, I don’t know this bottle is not good for you. This drink is not good for you. So he might be thinking, is dad right or wrong this time. Then I realized I have to do something. And I have made a decision since that day. I decided one thing that whenever I don’t know the answer, I will say, I’m proud to say, I don’t know.

Its OK To Not Know

I will check and I will come back to you. And I’ve been doing this for the last, almost six to seven months now. And today, whenever my son asks me anything and if I answer, he trusts me, because he knows Papa answers only when he knows the answers. Otherwise, he says, I’m proud to say, I don’t know. 

If today, I go to that same grocery shop and my son asks for that bottle, and if I say, I don’t know, it’s not good for you, he will listen to me because I have gained that trust now. He knows if Papa is saying, it means Papa is correct otherwise he will not say. 

What you do in your life and you don’t know the answer. You answer, or you say, I’m proud to say, I don’t know. 

What are your views on this story? Please share your feedback. 

Please write down your comments.

31 Comments

  1. Sahil

    I used to answer

    Reply
  2. Sandhya Tadla

    very apt. Good one

    Reply
    • Naveen Taj

      The story is very simple but has very powerful message, this needs to be applied anywhere and everywhere in life not only with kids, thanks for sharing such a wonderful story.
      I had great learning from this story.
      Thank you Praveen.

      Reply
  3. Praveen Kumara. B

    Wonderful story sir.

    Reply
    • Naveen Taj

      The story is very simple but has very powerful message, this needs to be applied anywhere and everywhere in life not only with kids, thanks for sharing such a wonderful story.
      I had great learning from this story.
      Thank you Praveen.

      Reply
  4. Vijay

    Very engaging Praveen. Well written. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. vinod Kumar

    Yeah…it is amazing instance you shared.
    though, I apply this pratice my day to life whenere my son ask anything.

    but, you have explained the subtance so beautifully, that perhaps I couldn`t think at that level.
    Vey good.

    Reply
  6. Pramod K

    This is a interesting topic, it’s good to know how would kids take it. Do you have anything in your corporate life about this? Cos most of the Times, if we say we don’t know to our Bosses, it would be taken as, we are not trying, may be at times we can say it’s a guess, am not sure n so on, but, to say I don’t know, is considered to be wrong.

    But this story says, that we need not to learn from everyone around n everything around, and to be honest before we say something, or in other words, when it’s about your personality, it’s better to admit wheather you say you know or not and then you express your opinion.

    Thank you for a very good topic, which we usually ignore nto which we keep giving our opinion as our decession…

    Reply
  7. Sujitha

    Yes Praveen I can resonate with this story. Even my son doesn’t trust me, now I understood the reason behind it. Not just my son this has happened with few of my friends too. Thanks for the deep thoughts.

    Reply
  8. Hitesh Babu. L

    It’s a simple and classical story with a high moral hidden

    Reply
  9. Kashi

    I am really appreciate on this story..

    Reply
  10. Shalini

    Awesome story and very true. We have got to accept that we don’t know all the answers and it’s ok.

    Reply
  11. Anoop

    : ). Nice. I fib very very rarely so even my enemies trust my words.

    Reply
  12. Syeda Rana Nikhat

    This story makes clear that how important it is to build trust with children and make ourselves reliable. And if we are not sure about the answer we can find and furnish them the correct one

    Reply
  13. Champa Roy

    I never realised that I have always done something great…to say I don’t know to my child as well as to the children back in school. I remember the first time I said to a child that I don’t know the meaning of a word she uttered. She was shell shocked…her face went pale but then I said that I can b an English teacher but not a walking dictionary. We too have to look up the thesaurus for meanings and synonyms…those days we didn’t have the dictionary in the phone….till date I tell children honestly when I don’t know something and I see that the generous hearted ones usually volunteer with the meaning that his teacher doesn’t know and goes upto that extent of shrugging his shoulders and pretending that it isn’t a sin not to know something rather it is ok not to know.

    Reply
    • Praveen Wadalkar

      Thank you for sharing 🙂

      Reply
  14. Ankur Jain

    This is so true in real life. The way you treat your kid; it reciprocate in his/her world and they grow with that.
    If you are rude with them, they will be rude with someone else. If you love them and treat with respect, they also reciprocate the same ot world.

    Reply
  15. Ramachandran E

    This is very powerful and creates the confidence in children on us. I learned this during one student Management Skill training conducted NIIT in1999. This topic here helped me to recollect thise days too… thank you!

    Reply
  16. Dr vikram patil

    Dear sir
    Many time in my life I tried to manage even if don’t know the answer ..Now I didn’t understood the impact it creates later.. in day to day life we get lots of situations like this .. can’t give answer to many questions wether it is kid o old man..
    So from now onwards I stop myself if don’t know..

    You creating lots of inspiration in me sir..
    Thank you

    Reply
  17. Bijendra Kumar

    Dear Sir,
    Above the story told by you is own your experience with your child.I think you told us your story very honestly and this is almost full up with journey of a father,that is true.My option is on this true story that parents are the first teacher of their children that is why they should be alert to their behaviour because children always copy the parents in their early growing age.They learn everything inside the house in very young and family is the first school and parents are the first teacher.But in these days something changed due to mobile and other electronic means but scenario is same if we understand the responsibility and if we want to contribute to the creation of a civilized society.
    Thank you..

    Reply
  18. Tarun M

    This is so amazing and critical an experience in life which we don’t realize, and it happens to all of us with our loved and closed ones.

    Thank you Mr. Praveen sir for sharing this.

    This is an experience some people try to hide and i was one among that until i realized the value of sharing this to build ‘Trust’.

    Most often i used to feel that answering a question to its maximum is doing justice to the question asked. That was how i answered the questions in tests and exams. So, i implemented it in real life too.

    But then i realized exactly what sir shared, with my close friends. Whenever we put a ‘maybe’ , ‘probably’ or ‘i guess’ , the trust is half lost. The other half is lost when they check or verify to find the answer wrong. And when did i realize this, when i was on the receiving end. That made me question myself, exactly like what sir said. Thus, i concluded, answering in life is more-or-less not the same as answering an exam or test.

    That was a beautiful start for me. There is no harm in knowing less, but make sure what you know is so strong that you can bet your whole wealth on it. Indeed it proves that if you are asked a question and you give an answer it is THE correct answer.

    Reply
  19. DHRUBA JYOTI BORAH

    I also agree with you. Till the lockdown starts, I used to teach in a University (as a guest teacher). Undoubtedly the students are very smart. When we were discussing a topic, some questions arose in their mind. Sometimes, they tried to check my knowledge, sometimes they asked me question repeatedly to pass the time and some questions were asked by them in genuine reason. I had to answer all the questions. I also heard that the students generally discuss the over-smart behaviour of some teachers. On the other hand, my answers to their questions may also determine my next semester invitation to teach at the University. Therefore, at the time of answering their questions, I had to confirm the correct answers to their questions. So if I did not know the answers, I politely tell them my inability to answer the question with a promise to answer their question in the next lecture. The student had not a complaint about my inability to answer a question. Even when I told them the right answers in the next day, they thanked me and ask something more about that topic.

    Reply
  20. Sheetal

    I realized that i simply take my child for granted as machine. I need to gain his trust. This psychological insight seems very helpful. I will surely practice it with my child.

    Reply
  21. SATISH BACHLEY

    It’s great lesson of life to gain the trust of anyone in the psersonal life as well as professional life.

    Reply
    • Prandeep Blone

      Great lession to learn For building a close and trusty relationship with the child and observe the tiny mistake that we really don’t care about.

      Reply
    • Praveen Wadalkar

      Thanks for reading and appreciating 🙂

      Reply
    • Sophie Carlo

      Awesome ! True story of Trust….loved it. Keep sharing…

      Reply
  22. Roshni Bhengra

    Very nice explaination sir,i am your big big fan.I am following you since i started your public speaking course .You have totally changed my perceptions,views and opinion towards life.Thanks alot

    Reply
  23. વર્ષિલ કાછડિયા VARSHILkachhadiya

    agree with your opinion and it is ideal.

    Reply
  24. Sashikala Charles

    There is subtle pressure in our adult lives that we should know the answers to all questions posed to us. In our desire to seem knowledgeable or give an answer we tend to guess our answers to the questions asked. It is important that we answer correctly or research facts before answering. Our credibility lies in our honesty!

    Reply

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