“All I know is that I know nothing.”—Socrates.
As web writers, entrepreneurs and online business owners, credibility is vital to our success. You need credibility to land new gigs, win more clients, attract new readers and secure lucrative sales leads. The best jobs go to writers who others think provide greater value and more credibility. It is not surprising, therefore, that many professionals today pretend to know it all in a bid to remain credible. People are simply terrified of uttering words like: "I don't know" or “I was wrong” for fear of losing credibility.
However, one of the most powerful ways to build instant credibility with clients, prospects and even your peers is to admit you don’t know everything. It may sound counterintuitive, but admitting you don’t know makes everything you say you DO know more believable. You become more credible when you don’t pretend to know more than you do. Nobody really expects you to have the answers to everything. You are only human.
People can actually sense, at a gut level, when you are wrong, made a mistake or need help. Pleading ignorance and drawing on the expertise of others is your best bet to establish real connections and trust with people. Being a know-all and refusing to accept your mistakes is not smart. Even if you fool people with pretenses, when they eventually find out (as usually happens); they might never trust you again.
Tips to admit you don’t know
There are ways to tell people you don’t know something without hurting your reputation. Here are five quick tips to help you admit ignorance like a pro and gain instant credibility in the process.
1.Be the first to say it!
It takes guts to be the first to say you don’t know or you have limited experience in something, especially when others have the wrong impression that you know it. But, it’s important to tell the truth so that people don’t feel deceived and start to wonder what other impressions they had about you were wrong. For example, if you have limited experience copywriting for SEO/SEM because you specialize more in direct mail copy, be the first to tell your clients that. Failing to own up is stealing other people’s reality and they may not take it kindly when they find out.
2. Say you don't know, but you are going to find out
If you don’t know, then you don’t know. Just say so and pass the message that you intend to find the answer or information that is required. You could say to a client: "That is a very good question. Do you mind if I check it out myself and come back to you later today?" Not knowing is simply an opportunity to learn. You will, however, be judged on whether you deliver the information you promised satisfactorily. So, make sure you do your research well and get back with a proper answer.
3. Fess up and ask for help or advice
Sometimes simply admitting ignorance is not enough. You also need to ask for help or advice when you need it. Often the listener is more knowledgeable about the topic. Be open to receiving help and advice. Don’t be haughty or afraid to say words like: "I'm not sure I get it. Could you explain this to me?” Asking for help allows you to give to others to help them succeed, and get from others to help you succeed.
4. Don’t say you don’t know too many times
People respect the humility it takes to admit you don’t know, but they won’t be thrilled if there is a lot you don’t know. In fact, if you say you don’t know more than twice in one go, people might start to doubt your credibility. They might wonder whether you are knowledgeable enough, or worse think you are outright incompetent and start looking around for someone else to help them. Use good judgment to guard against saying too many “I don't knows."
5. Offer what you DO know
Be confident about what you DO know and have to offer. You migt have limited experience in a topic, but hopefully you are not totally clueless. Whenever appropriate, explain how your understanding of the issues surrounding a topic relates to a particular service or product you provide and add details how your service can be of some help. Otherwise, just refer people to other professionals you know who might offer better help. Stay credible, work hard and results will eventually manifest.
See Also: How to be Credible (Without Credibility).