Has your mind ever been blown away by the amount of information that is out there? Mine surely has. For years, I had the habit of browsing through a variety of articles and content pieces, diving into discussions, trying to absorb and learn as much as possible — driven by this constant need to stay informed.
In an effort to stay informed, I would consume content I didn't have a natural inclination towards or that weren’t my areas of expertise. A habit, that became so obsessive that it lead me to an absolute state of saturation, exhausting myself, and suddenly becoming disengaged from everything — political, informative, worldly around me.
Not good. Not having an opinion today is seen as a privilege to have and is often looked down upon. Despite my keenness to converse on topics I knew nothing about with people outside my industry, I was tired.
I began to take a neutral stand at most things around me. I would allow myself to breeze through conversations, mildly nodding at whatever was being said to me. It was all elusive.
To know how I got here and why staying informed was important to me — read Part 1 of Becoming a Better Designer.
And that was scary. I knew this was a problem. I knew I couldn’t go on living disinterested in everything and anything happening around me.
For countless moons, I battled finding a balance, brainstorming this problem of mine (it’s what we designers do). And eventually a solution, I did find. A pretty classic one.
It was in accepting my ignorance.
It was in knowing the power of saying ‘I don’t know’ when needed be.
Three words that made my life astoundingly simpler.
Participating in conversations that I knew nothing about or pretending to understand when I didn’t, was so exhausting. Like those moments in a conversation when someone says “You know, right?” or “You know what I’m talking about” and you tag along, nodding, without really giving it a second thought if you really do know it.
Also, why did I put myself through it?
I had made the mistake of vaguely nodding or zoning out in conversations without checking if the statement made even deserved a nod, to begin with.
Such contributions to an interaction were helping no one, in fact, were only wasting everybody’s time.
Why was it happening? Firstly, I wasn’t even aware I was doing this.
Secondly, I was unknowingly worried about being judged about my lack of knowledge on something.
It was my fear of being considered ignorant in a time when information is so easily accessible to us. So I tagged along in conversations that made half-sense.
I hadn’t realized that the solution to me becoming better was in saying ‘I don’t know’ whenever I found myself come across a person speaking about something I didn’t know or fully understand.
Everyone knows that it’s impossible to know everything. If you have read Part 1 of this, you know interacting with people who aren’t similar to us is what brings growth.
We often don’t realize that this is why we prefer to hang with people who we share common topics with, as it’s uncomfortable to discuss and talk otherwise. It is distressing to be vulnerable. And this is exactly where I had gone wrong.
Saying out loud that you don’t know can push you to gain that knowledge either by asking more questions or by going and reading up on it. So learn to become comfortable about not knowing things, and admitting this, especially to yourself. Being aware, coupled with curiosity, is the best mental state you can be in.
If the person across you is genuine, they might actually offer to share their knowledge with you and help you understand things. If not, try and take a timeout and let them know that you aren’t fully informed on this topic and would like to get back to them later. There is something innately alluring about honesty, it can be quite freeing. People respect honesty. It reflects maturity.
Absorbing any content with a purpose has a higher chance of staying in our memory than randomly browsing multitudes of articles.
As designers, we are comfortable in accepting when we have to reroute our approach while problem-solving. But we often forget to do so in our personal life. Becoming a well-rounded person is how you become a better designer. And saying I don’t know, is a humble start to becoming one.