A student comes to you and asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to. Maybe about life, about the Bible, about a current event, about pop culture. About anything.
Or maybe a parent comes to you and asks you a question you don’t know the answer to. Not like why did you this or that. Like, what should I do when my kid does xyz or what happened at an event you were not at?
So, what do you say?
- Option 1- FAKE IT: lots of people do this. They just make up something that is vague and kinda right, trying to sound confident and reassuring. Crisis averted.
- Option 2- CLAIM IGNORANCE: come out and say, I don’t know. Then apologize or tell them it’s not your department and send them to someone or somewhere else to get the answer.
Retail environments do both of these all the time.
- FAKE IT: “Do you know where I can find such and such an item?” “We might carry it. If we do, it’ll be on isle ______.”
- CLAIM IGNORANCE: “Nope, sorry, I have no idea. Go ask so and so and try this store _________”
But then this morning, a volunteer who is my son’s small group leader for our middle school came into our high school room to look around. It was between services and I know he is finishing up a graduate degree and works at the Apple Store in our community and I asked how he liked it. He said, “I”m enjoying it. Best retail experience I’ve ever had, but I have to get a different job cuz it’s definitely not paying the bills.” I asked if they worked on commission and he said they did not. I asked about training before he got the job and he said it was 6 weeks before he was allowed to speak to a customer. Then I asked him this:
“What do they teach you to say when you don’t know the answer to a question?”
He quickly said, “I don’t know, lets go find out together.”
Well there you have it. A much better option.
- Option 3- BE HONEST AND ENGAGING: Don’t make stuff up, but don’t pass the buck. Respect their question, affirm their inquiry, confess your ignorance, and then join them in finding a solution. This does so much for you and the person asking the question. It allows you to be truthful. It shows you care. In the end, you find out the answer and are wiser because of it too.
- A SMALL GROUP QUESTION STUMPS YOU: “That’s a really good question. I’m not sure what the answer is. I tell you what, why don’t I do some research this week and you try too and we’ll compare what we find out next week.”
- PARENT ASKS YOU ABOUT AN EVENT ON YOUR WEEKEND YOU’RE UNAWARE OF THE EXACT DETAILS ON. “That’s a really good question. I don’t know, let’s walk over to so and so and find out the answer together.”
- YOUR CHILD ASKS YOU A QUESTION ABOUT SOMETHING FOR SCHOOL. Don’t just answer their question or send them away to find out the answer in disgust. Instead, join them and teach them how to find the answer for themselves as you discover it together.
- A QUESTION ABOUT A BIBLE VERSE YOU DON’T RECALL: That’s a really good question, then show them how you found the answer in a concordance or by search engine or whatever.