Intolerance of ambiguity is a reflection of an authoritarian mindset. Being certain is comfortable. It’s the easy path through the dark woods of life. It’s a defense mechanism against the truth of the unknown. Assuming we know why things are the way the way they are creates a barrier to the truth that is continually unfolding around us. Solving problems requires us to find the truth amongst diverse and opposing viewpoints. When we don’t allow others to surface their point of view in a discussion, we alienate them. Teams fracture into silos when certainty is thrown about heedlessly. There is risk being certain all the time. Others may disregard our direction and do what they know is right instead of coming together and finding collaborative solutions and paths. This is true for all the trials and tribulations we face at work, home and social circles.
Certainty gets in the way of sharing ideas and potential dialogue where everyone comes away with increased meaning and purpose. Certainty is the ear plug blocking any reception of new ideas. Being certain about our approach to the world or problems we face diminishes our ability to learn and adapt to the constant change presented moment to moment. Certainty is the mind killer and prophylactic of novelty and innovation. It’s the impulse behind losing freedom of speech and uninviting speakers at universities or debates. When we refuse to listen, we refuse to change and start down the path of decay and death. When we regurgitate our ideas as if they are the only important ones we are essentially saying my way or the highway. This of course just puts more people than necessary out on the road to nowhere and cripples an organization, team or societies ability to change. It is also the path to despotism, narcissism, loneliness and despair.
The three best words anyone can say to oneself and more importantly admit to others are, “I don’t know.” Every time we say these three words, we open the door to learning something new or refining our knowledge about something we thought we knew. Admitting “I don’t know” is the primary defense against the tyranny of certainty. Admitting we don’t know opens the space for others to engage and generating stronger solutions to the problems we face. It brings about a sense of togetherness in the face of adversity. Allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable and vulnerable from not knowing enables us to meet the challenges we face together as opposed of isolated and alone. Saying we don’t know builds resilience both inwardly and with others. It builds bridges instead of burning them down. In another perspective, embracing uncertainty reinforces the right of free speech with those we interact with. Free speech and the ability to question others information is the essence of the scientific pursuit of knowledge and spiritual truth. Relative to the biz of you, embracing uncertainty and reiterating the three words of openness is a foundation to build a life upon.
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May we not pursue certainty to the point of polarization and eventually a schizophrenic crack up personally, interpersonally or socially. Of course if we do, may our recovery achieve greater wholeness and cooperation than before.