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The Gift of Not Knowing Author: Jeff Taylor, MAC, LPC

Let me first say I am a big fan of knowing things. In fact, I wrote a blog on the importance of curiosity.   What I am describing is a specific belief about thinking you know the motive of another person. The moment that I believe I know someone else’s motive for their decision or behavior, I am (almost always) moving towards emotional (and relational) ill health.  

Here is a simple story to describe the concept:

Let’s say you are driving down the highway and someone cuts you off in traffic as they weave their way through other cars going at least twenty miles over the speed limit. You immediately become enraged believing they might kill someone. With your newfound sense of justice, you begin to pursue them. As you speed up your internal dialogue changes. Since no one else is in the car, you vocalize your negative labels . . . “That jerk is going to cause an accident” . . . “Who do they think they are . . .” Your diatribe is interrupted by them exiting the highway at which point something happens that stops you in your tracks. They pull into the entrance of a hospital and carry a blood-soaked child into the ER.

What changed in that moment? Your awareness of their motive.    

Suddenly, the “idiot” that cut you off was a terrified parent that was trying to save their child’s life.

All of us engage in “knowing” every day. What if we interrupted that belief with a simple statement that is also a question?

“I don’t know.”

I don’t know why that person spoke to me rudely or walked past me without saying hello. The gift of “not knowing” is a step, at times, towards empathy and away from the anger that can become toxic.    

Try some simple thought exercises and see how you do:

-Pay attention to the number of times you conclude “you know” the motive of someone that was rude.

-How often do you simply ask, “How are you doing?”   (You might be pleasantly surprised by the answer).

-How much do you allow the behavior of others to dictate your mood?

Recognizing we don’t know is a point of awareness, that although simple can move us towards the person that we desire to be more of in our life.

So....When someone asks you about something you are learning, tell them, “The wonderful gift of NOT knowing”

Then watch their facial expression change.

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