Tolerance for Uncertainty

Globe with SignsIt’s not easy to sit comfortably with uncertainty. Fear and worry can tend to predominate when we don’t know what to expect. Perhaps especially in these rapidly changing times, however, it’s crucial to find a way to feel comfortable when we can’t be sure what the future will bring.

So how do we cope with uncertainty? There isn’t one easy answer to this question of course.

Appreciative Inquiry talks about multiple realities – the fact that the way in which we all interpret our experiences is very different and a highly individualised thing. So what one person sees as an exciting possibility may scare the pants off someone else. And we have all seen this in action when change looms in our organisations or communities. Some folk are excitedly preparing for the change; others are scrambling to avoid it.

Those who embrace change and find it easier to sit with uncertainty do not have a magic wand to make the change itself easier. But they do adopt a different mind set and embrace a different perspective – a different reality. They could also be said to have a higher degree of Appreciative Intelligence® (one of the topics we cover in our Essence of Appreciative Inquiry workshops).

A key quality of people who have high Appreciative Intelligence® is tolerance for uncertainty. These people are better able to cope with the discomfort that comes with not knowing – and also help those around them deal with similar discomfort.

How can we increase this component of our Appreciative Intelligence®?

In his blog post Finding Peace with Uncertainty, Leo Babauta has some good starting tips. Here’s a summary:

  • Overcoming UncertaintyTry something new, but small and safe
  • When you mess up, don’t see it as painful failure
  • See the wonder and opportunity in change
  • Ask “what’s the worst-case scenario?”
  • Develop a change toolset
  • Become aware of your clinging
  • See the downsides of clinging
  • Experience the joy in the unknown

In developing our Appreciative Intelligence®, there is once again no magic wand. It requires both mindfulness and effort – but this is within the capacity of every one of us.

As Thatchenkery and Metzger say in their book Appreciative Intelligence: Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn:

 .. the same way everyone has general intelligence, everyone has Appreciative Intelligence. It exists to different degrees and in different domains, but is present in everyone … (W)hen aiming to enhance your Appreciative Intelligence, the best way to go about it is appreciatively. Determine what your abilities and qualities are, where they are strongest, and build on them. Stretch them, strengthen them, and use them in new areas of your life.

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