tolerating ambiguity

Ambiguity means dual and multiple meanings. The tolerance of ambiguity describes the human ability to react calmly to tension, uncertain situation, various expectations, and to understand them without judgment at first. We could also say that this concept describes cognitive and emotional elasticity. Low tolerance for ambiguity typically goes hand-in-hand with black-and-white thinking about an internal or external event: ‘This is how I have to be’, ‘it’s only good this way’, ‘that doesn’t work at all’, etc. Such assessments often lead us into emotional and mental one-way streets. Theodor Adorno saw a correlation between a high tolerance for ambiguity and a democratic spirit.

The more complex and demanding our lives, (work) relationships, interests and aspirations are, the more important it is to review our own values and adapt them to new situations if necessary. The development of a personal tolerance for ambiguity, or elasticity, is an essential requirement for human learning and rethinking. It helps us to understand difficult, ambivalent and intangible situations as well as differently imposed requirements, to accept them and to expand our perceptive field for what actually exists.