Parenting Two Sisters
*I posted this story first in 2010 and, seven years later, we still talk about it often.
One afternoon my two girls were playing together in the corner of the living room. I was sitting nearby and heard Lily, our four-year-old say in a stern voice, “Cailyn, Daddy says we can’t say that.”
Not hearing what “that” was, I asked Lily what she said. Cailyn said, “I know”, she said.
“Oh you’re right, we shouldn’t say that should we?”
“No,” she replied.
What’s wrong with “I know”
Nothing is inherently wrong with the words “I know”, but think for a minute about why we use that phrase as a response in conversation.
Often, we use the phrase “I know” in response to someone trying to share something with us- often something they find exciting, new information they are learning about, or something they find interesting.
Responding with “I know” can suggest that we aren’t open to new information, or that we want to make sure you know we already knew what you just learned. We put ourselves in a position of superiority.
To Filipe and I this is a pride versus humility issue. When we reply with “I know”, a conversation often comes to an abrupt halt and can leave the other person feeling inferior. If done persistently, we will damage the relationship. Why would someone want to share something with us when we already know? No one likes to be around a know-it-all for very long.
A Personal Issue to Work Through
When Filipe and I first got married, he noticed I said “I know” A LOT. And he did not like it. In fact, it’s why it’s become a big deal in our home. My husband’s first language was Portuguese. When you learn English later (or any other language), you become much more sensitive to word usage (I do the same with Portuguese).
It took me too long to rid this word from my vocab.
It is still shocking to me how much a simple phrase like this can change our heart and attitudes. It’s the small things that reveal the amount of pride in our heart. Often we do just want to boast in our knowledge.
God, forgive me.
Find an Alternative Phrase
“Really”, “Wow”, “That’s interesting”, or even, “Cool” keeps conversation open. These phrases communicate interest and that we enjoy listening. It postures our heart to be more open to what they are saying.
Even if the information being shared is old news, we bring value to other person by affirming what they are saying and the context in which it matters to them. I have found in most cases, it is not necessary or beneficial to respond with “I know”.
Before banning the phrase in our home, I racked my brain for a good reason for it. I didn’t want my kids pushing back later. Then I thought about what it must have been like for Jesus walking on planet Earth. He literally knew everything. But, I have a feeling he didn’t flaunt his knowledge. People were drawn to him. I have a feeling He listened intently. He humbled himself.
Use Words That Build Up
Responding with delight and interest is a simple way to humble ourselves in conversation. Try it this week. Replace “I know” with “Oh, really” or “That’s cool” (or think of your own phrase). No matter what you choose, focus on using your words to communicate value. Our words matter. Choose live-giving words.