One of our leaders used to say "I don't know' as his defence on certain issues that related to his family's involvement in political or business matters under his watch.
Another leader who is now in his retirement always says, "I know' for his defence when he is under attacks for his previous life as a leader of the nation.
Read this story of 'I Know' syndrome.
He was an adorable young man - diligent, obedient and well mannered. He had good habits and was honest to the core. Best of all, professionalism was his greatest asset.
I would like to call him TK.
During my active career days, my office had put him under my charge for training purpose. It was because of the unusual combination of his qualities that he had endeared himself to all the colleagues in a very short period. He had become a virtual darling of everyone at work.
The only problem with TK was that he had developed the habit of using 'I know' as a prop to his speech. Whether you are talking to him alone or in a group, he would very frequently interject with his famous 'I know'.
Ask him anything and he would respond with 'I know' with the speed of lightening. It seemed that there was no subject or issue on earth about which TK did not 'know'.
His 'I know' would roll out of him mechanically and effortlessly. It dawned on me that because of this reflex response the only thing that he did not 'know' about was when he would blurt the two words.
As it happened, for quite some time, nobody in the office noticed the excessive and repeated replay of the two words by him. This was because TK's good image had eclipsed the adverse impact that was being created by his penchant for using those two words:'I know'.
But gradually, people started noticing the 'I know' syndrome. It became increasingly irksome and jarring to many ears. This was certainly another thing TK did 'not know' - that by his own habit, slowly yet steadily, his image was taking a severe beating.
During staff meetings when the boss spoke, everybody listened attentively. So would TK. But sometimes he would suddenly blurt out, 'I know'. That would turn all eyes towards him because of the unwarranted interruption.
And we would find young TK's tongue in between his teeth in an expression of being apologetic. It was perhaps because of his boyish looks that TK was silently granted reprieve by all without being told explicitly.
But we all know that old habits die hard. So we did not notice any changes in his behaviour despite realisation by him of the irritating factor. By now, all those who had adored him all this time were feeling disappointed, rather annoyed.
Interestingly, while TK was getting compliments for accomplishing the tasks assigned to him to the satisfaction of his seniors, his 'I know' was becoming unbearable. But there was little they could do about it. So was the case with TK who, too, 'did not know' how to get rid of his 'I know' syndrome.
During one meeting addressed by the boss, a discussion was in progress on the merits and demerits of the old elevators with collapsible doors vis-a-vis today's virtually airtight ones. There had been a mishap a day earlier.
At one stage, the boss observed, 'You never know when the lift might get stuck...'
'I know', interjected TK even before the boss could complete the sentence.
The boss gave him a nasty look. TK lowered his eyes, mumbling, 'Sorry'.
Like others, I was also fed up with the 24 x 6 (excluding one weekly off day) replay of 'I know'. Back in our room, I made TK sit by my side.
I was quite agitated that moment. Yet, very politely, I told him, 'TK, do you know that you have become a wretched pain in the neck of everybody here?'
Instant came the reply, 'I know'. This time, all those present had a hearty laugh. The 'all knowing' young man reached for his ear. He vowed before us to shed the habit at the earliest.
I told him, 'It may not be possible because we know old habits die hard.'
'I know', responded TK with the speed of lightening as he looked at us with a gaping mouth and eyes wide open.