While Filipe and I are on sabbatical I’m revisiting the archives and adding a little present day commentary along the way. This week our kids are heading to Grandma’s house while Filipe and I fly to Rome, Italy. We are so thrilled.
I first posted this in 2010 and it’s something we still talk about as a family today.
A couple of weeks ago my two girls were playing together in the corner of the living room. I was sitting nearby and heard Lily say, “Cailyn, Daddy says we can’t say that.” Not hearing what “that” was, I asked Lily what she said. She told me Cailyn said, “I know”. I replied, “Oh you’re right, we shouldn’t say that should we?”. “No,” she replied.
Funny how Lily was three at the time, and not-so-funny is I’m still correcting her about this very issue.
What’s wrong with “I know”, you ask?
Nothing is inherently wrong with the words “I know”, but think for a minute about why we use that phrase in conversation.
Often, we use the phrase “I know” in response to someone trying to share something with us- it may be something they find exciting, new information they are learning about, or something they find interesting. By responding with the phrase, “I know”, we are essentially communicating to them that we know more than they do. It suggests 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 are putting 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 will likely come to an abrupt halt and often leave the other person feeling inferior. If done persistently, we will damage the relationship. Why would someone want to share with us when we already know everything? No one likes to be around a know-it-all for very long.
Now, take a minute and think of an alternative phrase.
“Really”, “Wow”, “That’s interesting”, or even just “Cool” will keep the conversation going. These phrases communicate that we enjoy listening to the person, and open to what they are saying. Even if the information they are sharing is old news to us, 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”.
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. When English is not your first language, you become much more sensitive to word usage. Filipe has helped me grow so much just by pointing out my word choices. It’s amazing how much a simple phrase can change our heart and attitudes toward one another.
[I accidentally used this phrase in a note I wrote the other day, but couldn’t take it back- probably the reason for this blog post now. I’m still a work in progress.]
Before banning the phrase in our home, I tried thinking for a good reason to use it. I didn’t want my kids pushing back on it in middle school. Then I thought about what it must have been like for Jesus walking around here on planet Earth. Talk about someone who knew everything! But, I have a feeling he didn’t flaunt his knowledge. In fact, Scripture tells us over and over again, He humbled himself. And just like him, we are to do the same.
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, use your words to communicate value. Our words matter. Choose live-giving words.