Bimbo Banter

Permission to Say “IDK”

  • Leadership
  • July 30, 2014
  • by Emily Turner


Here at Spaeth, we are officially giving you permission to utter those three little words “I don’t know” or IDK in text speak. “I don’t know” is not a stranger to our list of Acknowledgment PhrasesTM (the name Spaethites will recognize as a short, truthful way to respond to a question). However, time after time clients ask me if it is okay to use it during an interview. To which I acknowledge, “Of course!”

I haven’t launched an official study, but I personally believe it becomes hard wired in our psyches not to want to respond to a question by saying, “I don’t know.” We’ve all experienced that tense nervousness that accompanies being called on by our teachers at that very moment we weren’t paying attention and had no idea where we were, let alone what year the term “mitochondria” was officially uttered (it was 1898 by the way). However, the phrase “I don’t know” when used in the proper circumstance can be quite beneficial.

Unfortunately there have been too many airline disasters to count of late. However, these incidents present an example where it is okay to say “I don’t know.” The key to successfully acknowledging a question with “I don’t know” is that you have to continue on and have something relevant to say. For example, if an aviation expert was asked, “what caused the flight to go down?” It would be perfectly fine to say “I don’t know, but what I can tell you is…” and then proceed to discuss whatever elements of the topic you are familiar with and have prepared to discuss ahead of time. Interviews are all about taking control, but yet we relinquish control as soon as we put ourselves in the role of “answering” questions. This is why the acknowledgment phrase is so powerful. We advise “responding” to a question using an acknowledgment phrase. As long as you sound confident and interested when you say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you,” you will be fine.

The next time you find yourself stumped, rest assured in the power of IDK.

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