Category Archives: Openness

When We’re Wrong to Accept Ambiguity

In August I wrote a piece called “I Don’t Know.”  about how some people need to always give an answer, even when they clearly have no idea what they’re talking

man who has fallen off the front of a surfboard, two feet protruding upward on either side of the board, body submerged.

Some people hide from the truth, preferring a murky and unsustainable existence while missing the great experiences and view in front of them.

about. Today I address the flip side of that to talk about how some people lock ambiguity in a bear hug and hold on to it for dear life.

They engage in a Gregorian chant of “I don’t know. They claim a need for irrefutable proof in order to accept the truth. They call this certainty, or even closure. For instance, when a terrible event like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center leaves no reason to believe there are any additional survivors, some family members insisted Herculean efforts be made to find and identify the remains before they would accept that their loved one had died. It is the same with widespread natural disasters, horrific plane crashes, fires, or a building collapse.

Insisting on irrefutable truth gives us the excuse to stay stuck where we are in our grief and pain and anger. We hold on to a shred of imagined uncertainty so that we do not have to move forward. We close the door to what is and stay mired in what was. Continue reading

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This Can Really Make You Mad

Previously I have talked about how our assumption that what we said was understood in the way we meant it can lead to miscommunication.

mirror-like surfaces of the 110-ton elliptical sculpture reflect passers-by as well as the Chicago skyline and sky

We think we hear clearly, but our perceptions and assumptions can distort the true meaning of another’s words, and lead to an incorrect view of reality.

I’ve also talked about how making the assumption that what the other person is going to say is not important enough for us to listen without distraction also leads to miscommunication.

Both a failure to verify the other person has accurately understood what we mean, and a failure to listen, cause misunderstandings in our conversations and ultimately work against our relationships. Our incorrect assumptions weaken our relationships instead of strengthen them because they hide the truth.

There is a third way we weaken our relationships instead of strengthening them and that is when we assume that our interpretation of what another person has said is correct and absolute.

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Doin’ It Hard, or Doin’ It Easy

Years ago I worked with a man whose company was undergoing significant change after it had been sold to new owners. He recognized that while the old ways of doing things were valid and good, they were not sacrosanct. He was open to new ways of managing the business.

Road race crowd, woman in forefront, other runners in background;  cool spring morning, blue sky, bare trees.

Exercising the mind to be open to doing new things or doing things differently is like exercising the body for physical fitness. It only works with effort and consistency, and we realize progress only over time.

His philosophy regarding these changes was that he could fight them, or he could be open to them, the choice was his. He knew that either way, he was going to have to adapt to the new requirements. He would periodically remind his staff of this by saying, “We can do hard time, or we can do easy time.” He had a firm habit of being open-minded. Continue reading

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