It’s Not Always a Black and White Choice

Posted by Spencer Hadley on August 7, 2020
Workplace Communication

Even though the Adult ego in all of us has the advantage of reason and logic, that same power can confuse us when we are faced with overly complex situations. As simple as we want our values to be, life doesn’t fit perfectly and predictably into categories of right and wrong, good and bad. We wish it were as simple as what Sirius Black says to Harry Potter? “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” 

I love that quote, but for the vast majority of decisions I make in a day, I’m not trying to pick between such obvious choices. For example, such platitudes don’t help me to pick out the right detergent at the store. And if I am a manager trying to decide between two great candidates for a new position, I’m still going to struggle. Value statements can’t tell me the future. What if our ability to reason is plagued with a myriad of questions that have no answer? How resilient are you to this level of ambiguity? 

Choices for individuals can be a challenge, and even more so for a team of individuals who all have different opinions. The apex of all of this ambiguity comes in the form of outside events which are beyond our choices or controll. Tolerance for ambiguity is an important characteristic and it is something most of us need to work on. 

When you watched TV shows or movies as a child, did you ever get that lesson that if you wish upon a star, all of your dreams will come true? Some of you already know where I’m going with this. And you might say “I know you also need to work hard at it”. Sure I agree with that too. 

It sounds like it’s based on a good principle but it certainly doesn’t paint the whole picture in one sentence. I’ll share with you the example of my adult son. He’s very talented with music. He plays the piano really well, he plays the drums really well . . .and loud, he and his friends put together a band for a high school competition which they won. Then they went on to the regional competition and took second with a chance to go on to the state competition. I’ll give away the ending: they didn’t win the state competition. I’m here to tell you that no matter how much my son and his friends practiced it would not have made a difference at all. There was no amount of money that could have improved their chances either. New instruments, voice teachers or recording professionals would have been fruitless in terms of getting them a chance at winning that state battle of the bands. 

Now you might be thinking that sounds a little cynical but what I haven’t mentioned yet is that my son was part of the graduating class of 2020, a year completely devastated by a global pandemic. There was really no way for my son to know that it would ultimately be canceled, along with just about everything else you expect from a year of graduation. If our tolerance for ambiguity is low, we should take note. The complex world in which we live is continually multiplying the variables, and we need to make a choice today to frequently practice stress management.