Another Approach to the “I Don’t Know” Answer

Mar 09, 2017

“Disciples can usually be depended upon to wreck the teachings of a master. With words come confusion and misunderstanding and the possibility of an endless variety of interpretations.â€

Jean C. Cooper
An Illustrated Introduction to Taoism:the Wisdom
Of the Sages

Another Approach to the “I Don’t Know” Answer

TISA Description of the Problem: We have addressed this problem several times over the years in this forum. Anyone who works with kids and/or adolescents has heard it many times. But it can also be heard from many adults. Carole Levere Montano, APRN suggests the following tip for transforming this sometimes frustrating client response.

Tip: When I ask a question and the answer is a terse, “I don’t know,” I have found the following question, said gently yet in a lively fashion, to be of value: “Well, can you take a guess, can you take a guess?”

TISA Follow-up: This clinical interviewing tip can be deceptively effective in my opinion across all age groups. Another variant, for use with kids, has an almost playful manner to it as follows: “Well, can you take a guess? Take a guess, and let’s see what comes up,” once again said in a lively and non-pushy tone of voice. Notice that the last example, uses a “statement of gentle command” at the end, an interviewing technique that sometimes helps clients to open-up a bit more.

Tip provided by:

Carole Levere Montano, APRN
Institute of Living
Hartford, Connecticut