Posted 10 years ago
Difficulty in Dealing with Ambiguity
“Ambiguous” means having several possible meanings, interpretations or outcomes. Some people don’t like ambiguous situations where new variables can pop up any time, or where novel outcomes emerge rather than being designed from the beginning. It has to be either/or. One way or the other. They get nervous in the face of the unknown. They’ll say: “Let’s nail this down.” “Let’s choose one and go for it,” way before an idea has been fully developed. At some point that approach may be necessary. But rigid people like to get closure on one meaning, one interpretation, one outcome, as early as possible. And often that approach leaves out the contributions of other people. It certainly leaves out the possibility of novelty and serendipity. We’re all being asked to tolerate more ambiguity these days. Technology is changing the nature of the work we do, or in some cases, whether we have any work to do. For the past 20+ years we’ve been experiencing tremendous ambiguity in gender roles – what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman. If you’re in a role of leadership or responsibility, there’s no doubt you must make room for surprises and uncertain outcomes. Imagine being told in 1962 that the Soviets had nuclear missiles positioned on Cuba aimed at the United States, and that they might fire them, or they might not. John F. Kennedy faced that ambiguity. Imagine yourself on March 9, 1965, leading several thousand demonstrators in a march for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, where only two days earlier, hundreds of people had been beaten and attacked by police dogs for doing the same thing. Martin Luther King, Jr. faced a very ambiguous situation. Fortunately, most of us don’t have to deal with THAT level of uncertainty. If you’re a person who has trouble dealing with ambiguity, you like to do routine things with familiar people who behave in traditional ways. Changes and surprises make you uncomfortable because they alter the routine. If you recognize yourself in this discussion and feel that developing a greater tolerance for ambiguity would allow you the flexibility you’d like to have, here are some tips. Begin to stretch yourself a bit by taking on different duties and activities beyond your comfort level. In other words, consciously introduce some novelty and ambiguity into your life.
Tell us, how do you deal with ambiguity?