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One of My Most Repeated Principles of Leadership – and Life – Which Can Make Your Life Better

How’s this for a title? One principal for a better life? Really?

Yea! Really.

And, it is a very simple principle – one every leader knows, but one we often forget. But understanding this principle can dramatically improve every relationship in your life – and, if you’re a leader, it will improve your leadership – every time. Guaranteed!

Wow! Another emphatic statement! But, it’s true.

Learn this principle and place it into practice and see what I mean. Our staff hears this consistently because it’s so true.

Here’s the principle:

Are you ready?

Write this down:

People only know what they know.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s big.

It’s not just big – it’s


Of course, it takes practice to learn and let a principle this important work in your life, but the reward is worth it.

Let me give some examples:

If an employee isn’t meeting your expectations – tell them. Do it with love. Do it gracefully. Share it in a way which attempts to build them up rather than tear them down, but they may think you’re completely pleased if you’ve not said anything.

People only know what they know.

If your spouse is continually hurting your feelings – be kind, be loving, be graceful, forgiving, and helpful, but let it be known. Communicate your feelings. Chances are they are not doing whatever “it” is on purpose, but out of ignorance. They don’t know.

People only know what they know.

If a child says the wrong thing at the wrong time – Be affirming. Make sure they know you love them first. Assure them you’re in their corner and “for them” either way, but teach them from the experience you have had in life. Likely, someone had to teach you.

People only know what they know.

If a boss seems completely out of touch with reality – guess what? He or she may be. They probably need others to speak into their life. Be respectful. Be kind. Be genuine. Don’t share with others until you’ve shared with them, but share what’s on your heart with love.

People only know what they know.

If a new believer doesn’t measure up to the standard you’ve set for a believer. Don’t bash them or judge them or make them feel more guilty than they possibly do. Love them. Disciple them. Help them understand the way Christ would act. It may be they don’t hold or even know the standard Christ set.

People only know what they know.

Insert your own scenario, but before you get upset with someone – before you lose your patience – before you hold it against them – before you give up on a relationship – remember:

People only know what they know.

When people don’t know – and we assume they do – it leads to frustration, anger and disappointment. Communication is key to healthy relationships.

How could implementing this principle change some relationships in your life?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • nakul says:

    great post,thanks for sharing

  • Mark Triplett says:

    Ron, so totally agree with this! I use a phrase with my volunteer team whenever a situation arises, I say to them, “Don’t beat yourself up! You can’t be responsible for information that you don’t have!” Meaning if I didn’t tell them what or how I needed something to be done, I can’t complain about it to them.

  • Ify says:

    I had been praying concerning a relationship about to go down the drain and asking God to help me on what to do. This post just provided the needed insight. Rather than cut off my friend, I choose to sit down, communicate and love her despite my disappointment. Thank you for this timely message.

  • Lanuwapang says:

    Thank God, it’s a great post. “when people don’t konw – and you assume they do – it leads to frustration…” This line would encourage us to be patient with one another and give us hope to work together for improvement. And I also believe that to be prayerful about how to say or do something, is equally important as what to say or do something, in dealing with this life, “people only know what they know.” Thank you Pastor. God bless!

  • jimpemberton says:

    This is something I've often noticed. Most people use themselves as a standard of knowledge and understanding. That is, they expect that what they know and understand should be known and understood by everyone and if they don't know it or don't understand it, it can't be known or understood by someone else. Most people will verbally acknowledge that different people known and understand things differently, but when it comes to practicing it, that assent isn't applied very well.

    For example, someone might assume that someone else knows something they do even though they've never been told, or if someone doesn't understand something as well, the assumption by people who do understand it is that the person is an idiot. It can become pretty derisive. On the other hand, something that someone doesn't understand can be deemed unimportant. I'm convinced that this has fueled no shortage of anti-intellectualism in the world. Neither of these things, intellectual snobbery or anti-intellectualism, belong in a good team.

  • Roger says:

    This is true,,, Every day I see this as I work. If I can say this" An educated consumer is our best customer". As people know only what they know, until they know more.. I find that it is better to make sure people are fully aware of what they know. Be open, educate your consumer it helps in a long standing trustworthy relationship.

  • jay says:

    How due u know what they know ? And I was told by my wife that not telling the whole story is like lieyin

  • @AnitaSoler says:

    So true, Ron. Assumptions and expectations are potential relationship killers when clear, open communication isn't there. I love the previous comment about asking others what we may not know. So many times I've had to learn the hard way that my behavior or words were not having the kind of influence I had hoped for.

  • Parminder Summon says:

    Another way of expressing the same thought with more clarity is 'We all have blind spots'

  • Drew Snider says:

    I love the one about "new believers". In fact, one could take that a step further and say, "… it may be that you don't know what God's standard is". The biggest breakthrough I ever had in my own walk was when the Holy Spirit said, "your Salvation does not depend on someone else's estimation".

  • Chris Patton says:

    Great post!

    What about implementing this principle this way…take the reverse approach. Go to your spouse and ask what you don't know. Go to those you work with and ask what you don't know. Do the same with your children!

    I am sure there are many things I am doing that I could stop doing if I knew it was hurting someone I love and care about. In fact, just last night, my daughter (12) told me she hates sarcasm. Without even realizing it, I had been using it so much it finally pushed her to tell me she hated it! I wish I had known how much it was affecting her!

    Though just one example, it was a powerful one for me. Thanks, Ron, for the principle I can implement to find more of these examples.

    I think I will start with my wife…