Responding with “I don’t know”, is not considered to be very professional. This is why, especially in a role of authority of management, it’s important to select appropriate responses. This article will look at alternative phrases to use, that can be considered more professionally oriented.
What Can I Say Instead Of “I Don’t Know” In A Professional Context?
Considering that “I don’t know” is considered to be an unprofessional response, we’ll take a look at some different options. This article will take a look at these alternatives in particular:
- I have no knowledge
- I don’t recall/remember
- I don’t understand
- That’s beyond my realm of knowledge
- I haven’t the faintest idea
- I’ll have to look into that
- Let me check and get back to you
- It’s a mystery to me
- I really couldn’t say
- I can’t help you there
The preferred version is “I have no knowledge”. This is because it’s a much more proper way of admitting your unawareness or lack of understanding in any given situation. It should not be considered unprofessional to state the truth. However, there is always a courteous way of relaying your honesty.
I Have No Knowledge
We can respond with “I have no knowledge”, in a situation where we lack the abilities to assist a requesting person. This is a forthcoming answer that showcases transparency, a quality that cannot be deemed unprofessional. However, it is polite to offer to aid in further research for a solution.
When we say this, we are admitting our shortcomings in the situation. We aren’t able to help and it’s considered more professional to remain honest.
However, it’s important to follow up with an offering of assistance. Not only is this courteous and helpful to the receiving person, but it is also equally beneficial for us.
Here are a few ways to use this phrase:
- I’m sorry, but I have no knowledge of that incident.
- I have no knowledge of this, but let’s work on a solution together.
- I have no knowledge of the context of your homework, however, we can research it together.
I Don’t Recall/Remember
“I don’t recall/remember”, is the best way to begin a sentence in response to a question about a past situation or fact. Occasionally, when asked a question, our memory is required for the response. If we don’t remember, this is a polite way to phrase this.
Sometimes when someone requires us to draw on memory or something we’ve learned in the past, we can honestly forget. This isn’t unprofessional and again, we highlight the importance of remaining honest.
Therefore, we say “I don’t recall/remember”, and we follow through with a polite apology or offer further assistance. Continuing to help a coworker or client find the answer, is considered highly professional.
Some examples of how to use this in a sentence would be:
- I’m sorry, I don’t remember that bit of information.
- I don’t recall that incident occurring, but let me look into that for you.
- I apologize, I don’t remember learning that. I’ll go read up on it in my textbook.
I Don’t Understand
“I don’t understand” is a polite way to begin a sentence, if you are confused about what someone has said, written, etc. Occasionally, we can’t comprehend what someone has meant to say and this is a good way of addressing that. We should follow through with why we don’t understand.
We won’t always be able to understand what someone has expressed to us. Occasionally, folks are upset and slightly incomprehensible. Other times, we simply cannot read someone’s handwriting.
Regardless of why we cannot understand, it’s important to remain courteous and explain ourselves. To reach understanding, we must remember to work with the other person.
Here are a few ways we can use this in a sentence:
- I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean. Let’s slow down and you can try to tell me again.
- I don’t understand the meaning of this phrase. Could you help me out?
- I apologize, but I don’t understand this email.
That’s Beyond My Realm Of Knowledge
“Thays beyond my realm of knowledge” is a saying we can use when we don’t have the correct information to supply an adequate answer. This phrase could be used comically if the situation is suited for humour. However, it’s a professional answer under any circumstances.
We are once again drawing on the need, to be honest with whoever has asked us a question. However, this saying can be used if the appropriate situation allows for humour.
This is meant as a way to poke fun at ourselves, for simply not having the knowledge to provide an adequate answer.
Some ways in which we can use this phrase are :
- I’m sorry, but that’s beyond my realm of knowledge.
- Well, that’s beyond my realm of knowledge! I ought to go read a book!
- Unfortunately, that’s beyond my realm of knowledge. However, I’ll help you to find an answer.
I Haven’t The Faintest Idea
“I haven’t the faintest idea”, is another great saying to use when asked a question we have no proper response for. Similarly, this saying also works well when we are unsure of the whereabouts of something or someone. This is not considered an unprofessional response.
This English saying works well when we are willingly admitting to having absolutely no knowledge of a subject. At the same time, it works if we’re asked, but presently unaware of a person’s current location.
We use “faintest”, as it means something is barely perceptible. Therefore, it properly illustrates that we don’t have a knowledge base on the subject in question.
A few ways in which we can use this phrase are:
- I’m sorry, but I haven’t the faintest idea of what you mean.
- I haven’t the faintest idea where he could be.
- I haven’t the faintest idea about the subject if I’m being honest.
I’ll Have To Look Into That
“I’ll have to look into that” is a direct way of claiming both that we do not know, but will look into the necessary information. Occasionally, further research is required to properly present an answer. Therefore, it’s important to explain this situation accordingly.
This is a forward, but a polite way of offering someone assistance. Though we do not presently have the information they require, we can still aid in finding it.
Though it is direct, it is still deemed a professional statement, as we haven’t turned the questioning individual away. If we did this, without offering information or help, then it would be considered impolite.
Some examples of sentences containing this phrase are:
- I’m not presently aware of that information. I’ll have to look into that.
- I’ll have to look into that. Give me a moment and I’ll call you back.
- I’ll have to look into that and get back to you later with an answer.
Let Me Check And Get Back To You
“Let me check and get back to you”, is a polite response to give someone who’s asked you a question, for which you don’t have an answer. When we need a moment to find an answer for someone, this is an appropriate response – also confirming to get back to them.
Occasionally, we won’t have the information someone requires when asked. However, using this phrase, we’re able to courteously express this. We also highlight our need to check into said information and get back to the person afterwards.
This is a professional way to address a situation, as we are still offering someone help.
Here are examples of how to use this phrase:
- I’m sorry, but I’m unaware of the date of that incident. Let me check and get back to you.
- Let me check and get back to you with the information you require.
- Thank you for your patience. Let me check and get back to you in a minute.
It’s A Mystery To Me
We can say “it’s a mystery to me” when we are completely unaware of something. However, as usual, it’s crucial to follow a statement like this with an offering of further assistance. It’s fine to lack knowledge on a given subject, but we should assist in further research.
We can sometimes use this saying in a comical moment, but only if the situation is fitting. When we say something is a “mystery”, we willingly admit it confuses or is an unknown to us.
When this is the case, we should assist in finding a proper answer. This is beneficial for both parties, as we can both learn something from the situation.
Some ways we can use this phrase in a sentence are:
- It’s a mystery to me! Let’s look into this together.
- I have no clue where the book went. It’s a mystery to me.
- It’s a mystery to me where the cookies have all gone.
I Really Couldn’t Say
We use “I really couldn’t say” when we are unaware of or have no comment on a subject matter. We can choose to follow this statement up with an offering of help, or we can choose to conclude there. However, the latter may be considered less professional.
When we say this, we can be admitting that we don’t have enough knowledge on a subject to form a useful answer. We can also say this if we have no comment on a present matter or a person’s mind frame.
When we say this, we should generally choose to follow it up with a comment offering assistance. If we do not, the person who has initially questioned us may not feel we were helpful in the given situation.
Here are a few ways we can use this statement in a sentence:
- I’m sorry, but I really couldn’t say what he was thinking.
- I really couldn’t say, but I can look into that for you.
- I really couldn’t say why the girls are acting this way.
I Can’t Help You There
“I can’t help you there”, is a rather direct way of saying we’re unable to offer someone assistance. Being a direct statement, it’s important to remain as polite as possible with our follow-up comments. Perhaps, we can point the person in the direction of someone who can assist them.
This could be considered a more unprofessional comment, if not handled with care. We should always read the situation before choosing how to articulate ourselves.
If we genuinely cannot help someone, we should always attempt to point them in the direction of someone that we know can help them.
Lastly, here are some examples of how to use this phrase in a sentence:
- I can’t help you there, but let me find someone who can.
- I apologize, but I can’t help you there.
- Although I can’t help you there, I know someone who can. Please, come this way.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.