Tag Archives: Ambiguity

“We need to talk”

Four words to put fear into the heart…

“We need to talk”

For most, the automatic reaction will be:

“What’s wrong?”  or worse “What have I done?”

Without immediate clarification, or further details, the recipient is left in limbo, powerless, off balance.  Whether the initiator is aware or not, the recipient will be unsettled.

Done intentionally, it can be disarming, a powerful tactic to gain an advantage, to take the upper hand.  If unintentional, it can create unnecessary tension, misunderstanding or conflict.

The tendency is to assume the worst, something terrible has happened, there’s bad news. and that the conversation is going to be difficult, uncomfortable.  The tension of the build-up almost guarantees a sticky start.

Be aware of how you engage in advance of a conversation.  Be clear on the topic of the discussion, or better still, just talk about it.  Avoid leaving room for ambiguity or uncertainty.  Remove the fear.

If you’re the recipient, seek clarification as soon as possible.  If it’s not forthcoming, the best tactic is to put the discussion out of your mind.  Little good can come from the stress that it may cause.

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“Nobody knows”

Sometimes the certainty we’re looking for just doesn’t exist.

We have come to expect absolute answers.  Every question has a definitive answer.  Every search produces results.  We expect to have something solid to work with, something precise.

We find it difficult to accept that sometimes the best answer even the most expert of professionals can provide is “I don’t know”.  They may not be willing to be pushed to guess, or they may realise that suggesting there is more certainty is not fair, sets unrealistic expectations, or lays the foundation for surprises in the future.

In some situations, uncertainty or ambiguity can be exciting, creating suspense, adding to the outcome itself.  In others it can be frustrating, often for the same reasons, but within a different context or frame of reference.

In many cases, time is the catalyst as more information becomes available, or the question itself crystallises.

Patience is the key.  If you can, enjoy the anticipation.  If not, make sure you’re asking the right question, sit tight and, if necessary, work with what you do know.