To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.

– Confucius

Picture the following telephone scenario :

Me:    blah blah (I have a reasonable question about a service/product) blah blah …

Customer ‘service’:     crappity crap (clearly an answer I am making up on the spot           because … who knows?) crap and more crap …

Me:     But … hang on … are you sure? Because … (I am highly suspicious of this answer) …

Customer ‘service’:     Well … more crap (I don’t actually know the answer, but I can’t be stuffed finding out and it’s nearly my knock-off time and you don’t who I am anyway and clearly you have no idea yourself or you wouldn’t be asking the question)

Me:     Can you go and find out the proper answer, or get someone who  actually knows what they are talking about … (here comes an afterthought because you no longer deserve my manners) … please?

I doubt Confucius was venting about poor customer service, but reading his words immediately made me think of my intense dislike of people who waste my time by not admitting they don’t know an answer.

There is no harm in admitting you don’t know something.

Making something up so it seems that you know the answer does not make you a better person. In fact, if you do this to me … and I can pick someone who is F.O.S. from a mile  away … then you are likely to be on the receiving end of a long monologue about your lack of knowledge.

Confucius has also dug up another of my (many, many) pet hates: students who think their teachers should know everything and teachers who can’t admit to their students they don’t know the answer.

As a teacher, if I admit to students (who don’t know me well) that I don’t know an answer, the inevitable response is one of complete shock.

‘But … but  … you’re a teacher!’

‘Yes … and …?’

‘But … teachers should know everything …’

‘Well … I don’t. Let’s find out the answer together.’

Sadly, over the years I have also come across colleagues who are mortified that I would admit such a thing to my students, and even some who prefer to fob off a student’s question rather than say ‘I don’t know’.

I desperately want to quote Confucius to them all.

If took this on board, the world would be a more harmonious place (at least around me).

* For those who don’t know, F.O.S = full of shit.


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