Puzzle Post: Three Words You Should Never Say…?

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


What three words should you never say?

Let me clarify: You should never say these three words in succession.

It’s been a while since I’ve made a puzzle post.

I put some lines of text here.

To try to create some space between the puzzle…

…and the answer.

So if you don’t want to bump into the answer…


…then scroll back up until you’re ready.



There is a little history to this puzzle. Let me describe this to provide a little extra space between the puzzle and the answer.

Maybe it will also provide a bit of a hint, if you want one.

When I was in junior high school, one of our teachers preached to us to never say these words.

Unfortunately, it was natural for us to say these words.

Quite often.

So we heard his admonishment regularly.

And it worked. I remember it today whenever I hear these three words.

It’s a very common expression.


Ready or not, here comes the answer.

Perhaps with a bit of irony.

If you felt that you couldn’t figure it out, you probably did.

Did you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know”?

If so, then by not knowing, you actually solved the puzzle.

The answer is: I don’t know.

Those are the three words you should never say.


Why should you never say, “I don’t know”?

Let me first explain what the answer isn’t. It doesn’t mean you should know the answer to every question. That would be impossible.

Sure, you should strive to be well-prepared so that you don’t find yourself thinking, “I don’t know,” when your credibility is at stake.

But the reason that you should never say, “I don’t know,” goes much deeper.

These are wasted words. I don’t know. If you don’t answer the question directly, it’s obvious that you don’t know.

It’s not helping the inquirer advance toward a solution.

Be resourceful. Think of ways to help. Consider how to go about finding the answer. This kind of thinking is productive. Thinking, “I don’t know,” isn’t productive.

Suppose you have a problem and you really need help finding the solution. But you’re pretty sure nobody you know has the answer. Who will you ask for help?

The kind of person who always has helpful advice, even when he or she doesn’t know the answer. That’s who.

Not the kind of person who instinctively answers, “I don’t know.”

It’s about credibility, branding your reputation, feeling self-confident, improving your resourcefulness.

These are all valuable skills. If you avoid those three words, “I don’t know,” it helps you build these valuable skills.


Do you enjoy puzzles?

I do. I love puzzles, especially math puzzles.

So it’s no surprise that I have a new book of math puzzles, the latest in my Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks.

It includes quite a variety, such as visual puzzles, prime numbers, the Fibonacci series, and much more. It starts out easy and the challenge grows steadily.

Available both in print and for Kindle. Cover designed by Melissa Stevens at theillustratedauthor.net.

Write happy, be happy. πŸ™‚

Chris McMullen

CopyrightΒ Β© 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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17 comments on “Puzzle Post: Three Words You Should Never Say…?

  1. When I was working on the writing that became Fathers and Demons, I ran into this saying attributed to Maimonides: “Teach yourself to say ‘I do not know’ and you shall progress.” In other words, be willing to admit you don’t know everything and then go and find the answer. So that would be another, more positive take on “I don’t know.”

  2. Confucius said, “When you know, say you know; when you don’t know, say you don’t. That means you are a true scholar.” In other words, don’t pretend that you know when you really don’t. People could turn to someone else when you don’t have an answer for them. As for you yourself, you could start researching into the subject that you don’t know about. πŸ™‚

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