The Five Most Authentic Words in the English Language

Posted November 16, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder


Authenticity. It’s a buzz word that gets thrown around in every industry around the world. Are you being authentic? Authentic enough? Do you have authenticity? Is it a noun? A verb? It’s different for everyone. I recently heard an expert say, it’s not that we want to “be authentic,” it’s that we want to “have more authenticity.” An interesting but small distinction.

But I contend, that to truly be authentic, you only need to know five simple words, the five most authentic words in the English language:

I’m sorry. I don’t know.

I use these five words intentionally. One might argue that “I don’t know” should be alone, and that you shouldn’t apologize for saying so. But I think differently. I don’t see the words “I’m sorry” as an apology, I see them as as tone-setter. Saying “I don’t know” by itself could be easily misconstrued into having some kind of attitude. Picture a 16-year-old when his or her mom says, “Where did you leave your cell phone this time?” and chirping back with “I don’t know.” It’s not very authentic, is it? And it’s riddled with attitude. Saying, “I’m sorry. I don’t know.” It’s dripping with authenticity. It means you truly don’t know. It means you truly wish you did. And it implies you’re willing to look for the answer.

So stop trying to pretend you understand things you don’t. Stop trying to fake it til you make it. Change your attitude about these five words, and use them to enhance your authenticity. Go ahead, and when you don’t, say you don’t know. Say “I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."