“How we make sense of the world, is in part based on how we make sense of ambiguity, that hazy space between ignorance and daily rituals,” says Jamie Holmes in his excellent book Nonsense: the Power of Not Knowing. Are you wondering how to put up with ambiguity? Then find out through this simple mantra – How to be okay when things are not okay.
If there ever was a time that ambiguity has been amped up it’s now.
- When will we return to our workplaces?
- Are we ever going to change out of our pajamas?
- What will the world look like and feel like post-Covid?
- How do we stay connected and well in the meantime?
- And why, when we should be focusing on kindness, connection, and bridging, is some people’s behavior increasing abhorrent, violent and reprehensible (more on that in next week’s post)?
I wrote about ambiguity in my December 2019 post; What’s your tolerance for ambiguity? (And why it’s key to know). Considering everything going on, it’s eerily prescient. It’s a terrific recipe for how to be okay when everything is most decidedly not okay.
Jamie explains when the pressure goes up, our open-mindedness goes down. And we’re even more open to dictatorial leadership.
He says that up to 60% (yes that’s not a typo) is influenced by our need to reduce ambiguity and amp up closure. That’s a whole lotta influence.
When we’re faced with chronic uncertainty, we grow “pattern hungry” in search of confirmation.
And that search for patterns or certainty can lead us down the wrong garden path, to opinions that are faulty and based on false assumptions.
So how can we be okay when things are anything but? Here are five tips:
- Find out what your tolerance for ambiguity is. Check out the link below for how to do just that.
- Practice what I call gray thinking. Instead of defaulting to black and white thinking (e.g. false dichotomies like right and wrong), work at holding 2 opposing thoughts at the same time.
- When you’re in an ambiguous situation (including trying to learn something new), try to eliminate or at least reduce your tension and anxiety. That will up your tolerance for ambiguity.
- Relax. You got this …. Because it’s a skill you can learn. “A person’s comfort with confusion, the ability to admit that he or she is wrong, resilience, and the willingness to take risks are primarily emotional skills.”
- Take an assets-based approach. Increasing your comfort with ambiguity can lead to more innovation. “Failure is a part of innovation but with the idea that confusion is too.” “Think of confusion as an opportunity to learn, not as a failure or an obstacle to understanding” Eric Mazur, Harvard physics professor.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- Take the ambiguity assessment and share it with a friend and/or colleague.
- Check out this Dad who raises the ambiguity bar high when he convinces his four year old that she’s aged three years because her hands are wrinkled from being in water.
- Share the ambiguity assessment with a friend and/or colleague and discuss both of your results and how you can implement the tips above and support each other in this highly ambiguous time.
P.S. Let’s stay connected. Free weekly coaching by email on how to use humanity and humor to problem solve, right here.