Business Spoken English – NEW WAYS OF SAYING ‘I DON’T KNOW’

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New Ways Of Saying ‘I Don't Know’

February, 2020

Business Spoken English – New Ways Of Saying ‘I Don't Know’

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The hardest three words to say in English are not ‘I Love You’. They are ‘I don’t know’. Think about the last time somebody asked you something you didn't have the answer to. How did you respond?.

If you are the one among the many others, you are likely to have answered quickly with a short “I don’t know” so that you could move on, get away from the conversation and continue with your day. But in many workplace situations, it doesn’t sound appropriate and can make you appear as inexperienced, unprofessional or unprepared.

So, what should you do instead? The best and the most effective communication strategy is to have a good honest answer that can still impress the person who asks the question. These honest answers will be much more helpful than the usual brush off a standard ‘I don’t know’ provides.

Here are three phrases you can use in place of ‘I don’t know’ the next time you don’t have an answer and the best times to use each one of those


“I am not the best person to answer that”

Sometimes, it might happen that you would not know the answer to a question because there’s no way you could. It is not as if you are handy encyclopedia! Just because you work at a given organization does not mean that you would know the A to Zs of a project in any department. Even within your own department, sometimes you don’t have the expertise to answer everything.

Do you have a smarter option than answering ‘I don’t know’ to the person seeking answers? As such a response won’t do any favors to that person or make you look better. The better option would be to say “I am not quite sure I am the best person to answer that.”

This approach also works well when you do have an answer, but you probably shouldn’t be talking about it. Or if you would like to buy time and evaluate the options at your end than being impulsive. If someone at your workplace asks you a question about a controversial issue at your office, then the best and the non-awkward way to answer to it without creating a political landmine for yourself would be by saying “I am not sure I am the best person to answer that.”

Business Spoken English – New Ways Of Saying ‘I Don't Know’

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“Here’s what I can tell you”

It can be highly annoying when you know all of the relevant information for a particular meeting or project and still you find yourself saying “I don’t know” because people begin asking questions with little pertinence to the current matter.

Then this is the perfect time to use “Here’s what I can tell you.” For example: When your boss asks, how the marketing strategy adopted for products impact the promotion, you would say, “We have not conducted studies on promotion, but here’s what I can tell you: Products have given us a better insight of the prospects of our company in our studies.”

This communication method not only brings the discussion back in track but it also makes sure that all of your hard work and research does not go futile. It also creates better impression of you as thoughtful, responsive and analytical.

Business Spoken English – New Ways Of Saying ‘I Don't Know’

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“I will find out”

It might happen that you are unable to answer the questions you are expected to know. The right way to answer such questions would be by saying “I will find out”.

For example: Being an HR recruiter, if you are asked by the HR Manager about the interview lineups of the day, it would be simply foolish of you to answer “I don’t know”. This response only shows that you do not have the answers, at the same time you also are not willing to put in any work to find them out.

Hence the right way of answering would be to say “I will find out”. This is the right way of assuring someone that you will do the scrutiny to get the information, which makes you look like a cooperative, valuable and resourceful team player.

Both in professional and personal life, honesty is the best policy always, but that doesn’t mean you can’t choose your words as per the situations wisely. All the above phrases can be used to replace “I don’t know”. These inspire confidence without the need to sacrifice the truth or the details. A better communicator is always preferred than a reckless one!

The writer of this article is a seasoned Facilitator and English language expert at Nirmiti Academy, a professional Training and Coaching solutions partner for professionals, entrepreneurs, corporates and other institutions. For deeper insight of communication styles, choice of words and practice, do refer to Business Spoken English program on our website

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Also read: Falling in love with yourself

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