I used to think the worst thing I could do when meeting with my supervisor, client, or co-worker would be to respond to one of their questions with “I don’t know.” I thought it showed I wasn’t qualified for the position I had; that I hadn’t earned my keep with the company; that I was a fraud.
It took some time for me to realize that saying “okay, you got it” or “yeah, I can do that” to a task I truly knew nothing about detracted far more from my qualifications than saying “I don’t know.” At my first job I would do this a lot. I would be asked if I could do X, Y, and Z and I’d happily agree and strut back to my desk only to sit there for fifteen minutes trying to figure it out. Had I said, “yeah, I can do it, but I’ll need a little guidance first,” that fifteen minutes would have turned into five and the task would have been done.
Saying “I don’t know” is okay. It doesn’t mean you’re not qualified, you didn’t you’re your keep, or you’re a fraud. It means you’re someone who is learning and trying to understand. Next time someone gives you a task—or asks you a question—you’re unsure of it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” But after you say it, make sure you go find out.