What You Know Vs. What You Think You Know

Incite InsightsThis is how humans are: we question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question.” ~ Orson Scott Card

There are two ways to preface a statement regarding your beliefs. You can say:

This is what I think.

Or you could say:

This is what I know.

The first one (what I think) seems to have less of a commitment. The second one (what I know) seems more assured.

In reality it’s often the opposite.

The Paradox of Knowing

When you know something deep in your gut — something you have absolutely no doubt in — there’s a confidence that comes from that knowing. That confidence is so strong, you don’t feel the need to convince anyone of what you know.

You may even choose not to try at all. You know it, and have no real desire or need to make anyone else know it.

So when you discuss it, you say, “this is what I think” because it’s less confrontational than “this is what I know.”

Saying you know something tends to scare people. Mainly because they aren’t too confident in what they think they know.

People who say “this is what I know,” are often starting out from a defensive position. They always feel the need to defend their beliefs, because they aren’t real confident in them.

It often makes you think “who are you trying to convince, me or yourself.”

When you know something, you don’t feel the need to defend it. Sure, you like discussing it, but can easily see the other point of view. You know what you know, and nothing will shake that. So it’s easy to view it from another perspective.

Question everything, until there are no more questions to ask. Then rest assured in your knowing. Then when the questions come up again, you’ll have no need to dodge them. Because true knowing is bolstered by questions, even though you’ll have no need to ask them.


  1. One of my favorite sayings is, “You can’t believe everything you think. You can’t believe everything you feel.” I enjoy hearing how other people view things and figuring out what I believe. And that’s the best way for me to understand my own view–to see/hear what other people think. I’m not interested in convincing anyone.

  2. The human brain is simply amazing, it can fill in gap using clues and what it already knows. Thats why some people just can’t agree with anybody but once you show them real proof…

    It all have to do with Point of View I guess. Take care, Sean.

  3. This reminds me of something I read about Benjamin Franklin. After a humbling moment in his youth, he resolved to always start advice with something like, “It seems . . .” or “Maybe it’s possible . . . “, and in doing so became one of the top diplomats our young country ever produced.

  4. I agree. If you want to get a group of people to do something such as decide on a new colour to paint the office – which statement would get the more positive response?

    1. I know that we should paint the walls yellow.
    2. I think that a brighter colour, such as yellow, might be nice.

    The second option is much weaker and therefore will get less opposition. To say you know you are saying that others do not know. It is a black or white option. To say you think leave room for others to think too. It is a shades of grey option.

    When everything is grey nobody will fight your off-white or near-black. When things are black and white a neutral grey is either too white or too black.

  5. Jean – I’ve found that those most comfortable in their own beliefs, are more open to listening and discussing the views of others.

    WarriorBlog – Being able to see another point of view, without feeling like you have to defend your own, is a valuable thing.

    Terry – That’s so true. In any kind of negotiation, it’s important to really understand both sides. As Franklin rightly points out, the language you use can affect everything.

    Gerhi – Right. Starting from a position of “I know this is right…,” puts people on the defensive. “This is what I think…,” may seem wishy-washy, but in fact establishes a more even ground for you to present your view. Particularly if you’re confident in your position.

  6. I really enjoyed this post because it takes a lot of courage to say, “This is my truth and I’m sticking with it.”

    It’s kind of funny you posted this just after I moved my blog, Adversity University, to a new domain, using WordPress. After days and days of looking for a new theme, I settled on this one theme and decided that it was the right fit for me. I just knew it was a good fit. But I have to admit I was a little concerned about how the majority of my subscribers from the old blog would feel about the new one.

    But I gently acknowledge that concern and pushed it to the side, sticking with my inner convictions. That takes courage because “what if” a bunch of subscribers or visitors didn’t like it? Then what?

    Good post – gave me a lot of food for thought!


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