I believe in developing a tolerance for ambiguity. Where I work, this is one of the qualities on which we rate each other and ourselves during reviews. I have generally had a low tolerance for ambiguity in the past. I am the kind of person who likes to know an answer immediately. Patience in dealing with the unknown has not been one of my best attributes, though I am getting much better at it out of involuntary practice.
In my work there are plenty of opportunities to strengthen this talent. There was ambiguity about our survival as a company when the telecom industry tanked in 2001. I loved my job and the company but I feared the unknown, so I left, only to come back a year or so later. By then the company had made a lot of changes to survive and thrive, and I wasn’t sure what my role would be. Because no one else was sure either, until things were sorted out I was content (or at least did an excellent impression of a person who is patient and content) to let my role evolve naturally. I couldn’t have picked a better job for myself than the one I grew into, so I am glad I didn’t pick so hastily back then. As a Partner Manager there are issues I face every day that involve plenty of ambiguity, but I’ve learned to not only tolerate the unknown, but to enjoy the process of watching and actively participating in the resolution.. Well, most days that is true. Other days I still work mightily on developing that tolerance!
In my personal life my ability to tolerate ambiguity is tested almost daily. I looked carefully at the schools my kindergartener could go to and chose our neighborhood school for him. When that didn’t work out I had to do a lot of scrambling mid year to look harder with new information. Although that was a very stressful time for our family, I believe the ambiguity of the situation made us know our son better and look more consciously at schools that would better suit him. The result is the confidence we have in the school we chose and my son’s success there.
Lately I have been considering adopting a child from Liberia. I was recently disappointed by the director’s behavior at the agency I had picked, and at my husband’s ambivalence about adoption. I know I can easily find another agency, but the changing nature of my husband’s willingness to consider adding another child to our family is harder to contend with. For now I will remember my gratitude for the family I do have and to keep my dream in sight. Will we adopt? If so, from what country and how? How old will she be and what will she be like? I don’t have the answers, but I believe my tolerance for ambiguity will help me as the answers reveal themselves.
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