This week I’m looking at the advice that writer Louise Penny puts in the mouth of her character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Gamache tells his protégés that there are “four sentences that we must learn to say, and to mean.”
I don’t know.
I need help.
I was wrong.
What all of these have in common is that they betray our vulnerability.
Each short sentence opens us up to potential mockery or rejection or anger. They place us in a position where it feels like the person we’re speaking to has power, and we have none.
Default intentions (to seem in control, to have all the answers, to get it right) make us say:
Of course I know!
I don’t need help; I’ve got this
Why would I apologize?
I don’t need to take responsibility; I wasn’t actually wrong
And we cannot grow, change, or lead from those default intentions.
But I would offer that being able to say these four sentences, and to mean them, gives the speaker power. They show that you know who you are. They show leadership and trust. Being willing to put yourself in a vulnerable position is a mighty demonstration of power.
If I don’t know, I’ll find out.
If I need help, I’ll ask so that we can all move forward
If I offended you, I am strong enough to apologize.
If I was wrong, I can learn from my mistakes.
That’s leadership. That’s strength.