Ambiguity is one of those words that usually carries strong negative or positive connotations. For some of us, just hearing the word ambiguity makes us extremely uncomfortable. But for others, ambiguity is deemed as something more positive. How we react to ambiguity typically comes down to our perceptions, personalities and past experiences. For example, let's analyze ambiguity as it relates to personality types. Someone with a "Type A" personality might not welcome ambiguity because it represents the opposite of order and organization. On the other hand, someone with a "Type B" personality may be more open to ambiguity because they see it as a chance to "go with the flow" and practice their flexibility and creativity.
While ambiguity, by definition, represents the opposite of certainty, one thing we can be certain of is the presence of ambiguity in our world today. Whether we like ambiguity or not, it's something we've all had to come to terms with over the last several months in our personal lives and professional lives. Here are four tips to help you deal with ambiguity:
- Approach ambiguity with a process. This can help you greatly if you're a Type A personality. Even though the ambiguous situation you find yourself in prevents you from knowing all the details, you can still approach it with a process or a framework in place to help you make more sense of it. Create a step-by-step list of what you are going to do to approach the ambiguity. Map out the different actions you can take and the potential ramifications of those actions. Getting a "plan" written down on paper helps to take some of the uncertainty out of the ambiguity.
- Be present. While you can have guidelines for how to approach the ambiguity and outline any potential future implications, it's important that you don't get overly caught up in all the "what ifs." If you let your mind go there, it can be paralyzing, and you'll have an even harder time moving forward. Overthinking what might happen in the future prevents you from being adaptable. So, don't get too tunneled in on your plan that you forget to live in the present situation.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes. It's impossible to approach ambiguity without some level of risk. The nature of ambiguity is that you don't know what's the "right" decision to make and what's the "wrong" decision to make. All you can do is make the decision that you think is best and accept the fact that there is a chance you will make a mistake. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process, and learning from mistakes you've made in the past can help you better handle the next ambiguous situation in which you find yourself.
- Communicate. Gather as much information as you can. This is particularly relevant in a sales scenario where you're not certain as to how a customer wants to proceed. A proper Exploratory Process can help you gather necessary details and information from your customer to reduce any ambiguity around how they are feeling, what they are thinking, and what their needs are.
Knowing how to deal with ambiguity is imperative in today's uncertain world, especially when it comes to working in the sales profession. The four tips above can be powerful in helping you embrace ambiguity and navigate your current reality!