The Advantage of Uncertainty

Have you ever felt trapped in a meeting that's going nowhere, each party doggedly holding on to their own opinion? It's something we experience in many of the teams we work with. It can be exhausting and frustrating…and if it's not addressed it will hold organisations back. 

One of the reasons it is so hard to disagree productively is because we become so attached to our ideas. We start to believe that we own them and so by extension, they own us.

The way that we reach people is by finding common ground. It's by separating ideas from identity and being genuinely open to persuasion. To do that, we have to listen, and we have to open ourselves, really open ourselves up to the possibility that we might be wrong. What Julia Dhar describes as “the humility of uncertainty.”

Psychologist M Scott Peck said “True listening means setting aside of oneself” - which means setting aside your opinion. We need to assume that we have something to learn, rather than assume that we have the answer. Steven Covey puts it this way: “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.”

If we can learn to truly listen, the suspicions that we hold about people who espouse beliefs that we don’t share start to evaporate. Because we can imagine ourselves stepping into those shoes. And as we're stepping into those, we're embracing the humility of uncertainty. The possibility of being wrong. 

It's that humility that makes us better decision-makers, and enables conversations, teams and organisations to move forwards.

This article is adapted from a TED video by Julia Dhar. Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash