Do I Don’t Know?

“Sweetie, where are my big orange-handled scissors?”

My son, absorbed in his latest movie obsession, absent-mindedly replied, “I don’t know.”

“You were the last one to use them. Do you remember where you left them?”

Again, “I don’t know.”

Did he really not know? How could he not know since he was the last one to use them? Did he even care that they were missing or that I needed them?

I never realized how irritating it is to hear, “I don’t know,” until my kid learned to say it a few years ago.

To be fair though, I have been guilty of it too.

“Mom, when are we going to go to the park?”

“I don’t know.”

I realize now that must’ve been annoying for him. Did I really not know? How could I not know when I was the mom? Did I even care how much it meant to him?

“I don’t know,” is all too often an answer of convenience. We can answer someone’s question without being bothered to engage the matter. We say, “I don’t know,” when we are busy or distracted. We often say it when we want the problem or even the person to just go away.

We may think we’re getting off easy when we just dismiss something with an, “I don’t know,” but it hurts when the implication is “I don’t care.”

I know this, I don’t want anyone in my life to think I don’t care. That’s why I’ve been trying to catch myself when I am tempted to say, “I don’t know.” I’ve been making a conscious effort to engage in the problem or question instead of dismiss it.

Instead of saying, “I don’t know,” now I say these types of things:

I bet the library would have a book about stinging insects.

I’ll look it up and let you know at next week’s Bible study.

Let’s ask Grandpa what kind of rock this is.

Have you checked under your bed?

The last place I remember seeing it was on the table when you were making stick puppets.

I need to give that some thought.

I have enjoyed varying my approach to things I don’t know, but changing what I say is not just about turning a phrase, it represents a shift in my attitude. I am not trying to brush people off or dismiss their concerns. I don’t want to irritate folks, I want to honor them. I want to show people that I care in how I respond.

Can I keep this up? I don’t know. I sure hope so because the people in my life are worth it.

What about you? Do you have patterns of talking about things that may be working against you in relationships? How do you show you care by how you listen and respond to the people in your life?

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy Bricker on March 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Loved today’s entry. It’s great food for thought. I don’t know ranks right along “I don’t care” when I ask my husband what he wants to eat. I’ll be paying more attention to how I respond from now on. Thank you.

  2. Posted by Ramona on March 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Ouch! But true. re: your question, I don’t know, I’ll have to think on that!

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