Coping with Ambiguity: 7 Ways to Relieve Stress
As human beings, we’re hardwired to seek consistency. Habit and routine actually help us to relieve stress. So it’s understandable that, for many of us, dealing with ambiguity is a difficult concept. From relationships to careers and everything in between, ambiguity is everywhere! There is an old proverb that says;
‘There is nothing certain, but the uncertain’.
So, if ambiguity is unavoidable, how can we cope with it, relieve stress and even thrive on it?
Firstly, what is ambiguity?
Ambiguity occurs when several interpretations of a situation are plausible, creating uncertainty. Dealing with ambiguity is all about being able to cope with a certain level of risk. It’s about being able to make effective decisions without always having full information. Understandably, this can seem very unnatural for some people.
Walid Afifi, a Communications Professor at the University of California, suggests that for most of us, dealing with ambiguity causes stress and anxiety. In fact, our mind registers uncertainty in the same way, regardless of the situation. So, we feel the stress of uncertainty just as severely, whether we’re in a work struggle or in a war zone.
However, he also suggests that dealing with ambiguity is a skill that can be learnt. Multiple studies have shown that better tolerance of ambiguity creativity and is among among the ways to increase confidence. What’s more, it can also relieve stress and empower people. Tolerance for ambiguity has even been listed as a critical characteristic that make a good leader. So, whilst ambiguity often symbolizes risk and uncertainty, it can also symbolize opportunity and hope. It’s all about how we react to it.
There is an old saying by Yoshida Kenko, an author and Buddhist monk from the 1300’s;
‘Life’s most precious gift is uncertainty’.
So how do we train ourselves to cope well with ambiguity and to relieve stress?
Like any other skill, dealing with ambiguity effectively takes time and practice. Here are 7 ways to start building your ambiguity muscle and relieve stress around uncertainty:
- Practice makes perfect- accept the fact that, like any new skill, it might not feel easy or natural at first. Failure is success in progress, so don’t let small drawbacks deter you from the final goal.
- Take baby steps – Don’t expect to become an expert overnight. Begin tackling tasks with low levels of uncertainty. Over time, you can build up to bigger challenges.
- Focus on problem solving – Have some trust in your abilities. It’s important to know that you can deal with what happens as it happens. You don’t need to try and prepare for every eventuality in advance.
- Be like Nike – Just do it. Sometimes you have to take the plunge and ignore your brain’s natural impulses to avoid uncertainty. A bit like diving off the high platform into the pool, feel the fear and do it anyway.
- Redefine success – especially in the early stages of practice. Success can be as much about managing the ambiguity as it is about achieving the final result. Make managing the ambiguity your goal and celebrate each win along the way.
- Manage stress – this is a whole other blog! The key though is to figure out the stress management techniques that work for you. Often, you only really have two choices, change the situation, or change your mindset.
- Communication is key – you’ll never know if you don’t ask! So, gather as much information as you can from others and ask for feedback on small steps as you move forward.
What will work best for you?
These tools will work differently for different people. So, it’s important to strike a positive balance and discover what works best for you to relieve stress when dealing with ambiguity. The best way to do this is to figure out your personal strengths by using one of the strength finder tools. Knowing where your personal strengths already lie means you can better tackle new challenges. The latest research in the positive psychology field shows that a strengths-based perspective on life has a much greater impact on performance than a deficit-focused perspective. Figure out what you are naturally good at, and then use the right tools for you to boost your performance even further! The HIGH5TEST has been developed just for this purpose. You can take the strengths test for free today and start building on your personal strengths immediately.
Remember, dealing with ambiguity is not something that you either can or can’t do. It’s a skill you can learn. Like any other skill, the best way to learn is through practice. So, take baby steps to build up your confidence to act effectively on the information you have right now. Ambiguity doesn’t have to be a scary word. Learning to deal with it effectively can help you feel confident and creative in all aspects of life.
So, what’s the next step?
Frequently Asked Questions About Relieve Stress
What does it mean to deal with ambiguity?
To deal with ambiguity is to adapt to changes and learn how to effectively cope with uncomfortable situations, stress, or anxiety. Individuals who manage to effectively deal with ambiguity can make decisions without having the entire picture.
They don’t tend to overthink things that they can’t control. Generally, dealing with ambiguity means having an adaptable and flexible attitude towards life and being able to remain calm even in the most uncomfortable and uncertain situations.
How do you tolerate ambiguity?
There are a few proven methods to tolerate ambiguity:
Avoid overthinking about the things you can’t control – Accept that we can’t manage every single detail in all situations, and it’s not necessary either.
Take risks and leave your comfort zone – Participating in new challenges and taking risks will help you leave your comfort zone and face ambiguous situations.
Imagine possible scenarios – What can possibly happen in the upcoming ambiguous situation? Try to imagine things in advance, but remember not to overthink.
Perceive the situation differently – Whenever you think that the situation is too complicated to handle, try to change the way you look at uncertainty and don’t let the situation guide your actions.
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