By | Sara McCord | www.themuse.com
Saying “I don’t know” when you don’t, in fact, know the answer to a question should be laudable. It should tell people you’re a straight shooter—not someone who fudges an answer when you’re unsure.
But, let’s be honest: In many workplace situations, it just doesn’t sound good—and can make you come across as inexperienced, unprofessional, or (especially) unprepared.
So, what should you do instead? The best course of action is to employ a phrase that avoids misleading the other person, but still makes him or her feel like you answered the question. Read on for three phrases you can use in place of “I don’t know” and the best times to use each one.
When it’s Not Your Area of Expertise:
“I’m Not Sure I’m the Best Person to Answer That”
Sometimes, you don’t know the answer to a question because there’s no earthly way you could. Just because you work at a given company doesn’t mean you know the ins and outs of a project two departments over. Even within your own department, sometimes you don’t have the background or expertise to answer everything (nor, frankly, should you).
However, responding “I don’t know,” probably won’t do the person seeking answers any favors—or make you look any better. A smarter option? Say, “I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer that,” then follow up with the appropriate referral to your boss, another department, or whoever can better answer the question.