Gary AgnewExcelsior CollegeCOMM120: FOUNDATIONS OFCOMMUNICATIONDr. Teresa Williams
Usually in communications we strive for aclear, concise message. However, that may notalways be the best way to communicate. Thispresentation will briefly examine thepersonality variable Tolerance for Ambiguity andits effect on communication.
The ability to express more than oneinterpretation Differs from vagueness in that specific anddistinct interpretations are permitted Ambiguity is context dependant
The ability to perceive ambiguity in informationand behavior in a neutral and open way Wilkinson’s Ambiguity Advantage defines typesof leaders and their differing degrees of ambiguitytolerance
Mode One – Technical Leadership. These leaders usually deal withambiguity by denial or creating their own certainty. They are also moredictatorial and are very risk averse by nature. Mode Two – Cooperative Leadership. The aim of mode two leaders is todisambiguate uncertainty and to build teams around them to mitigaterisk. Mode Three – Collaborative Leadership. Mode three leaders have atendency towards consensual methods of leadership. They prefer to worktowards aligning team members values and getting agreement. Theirapproach to ambiguity is for the group to examine it. Mode Four – Generative Leadership. These leaders use ambiguity to findopportunity. They tend to be inveterate learners and innovators.(Wilkinson, D. 2006)
Some find ambiguity as an opportunity; otherssee it as a threat.Kajs, L.T. & McCollum, D.L. (2009)
Some professions like counseling encouragestudents to learn ambiguity tolerance“Ambiguity tolerance must be further developed in order forstudents to develop into counselors who are not only competentbut also able to articulate how they arrived at their own uniqueapproaches to counseling.”Levitt, D. & Jacques, J.D. (2005)
“Managers who wish to foster creativityshould attempt to incubate moderate levels of role ambiguityby reducing extreme rigidity in job descriptions”Shuhong, W., Xiaomeng, Z., & Martocchio, J. (2011).
Sometimes tolerance for ambiguity is desirable– sometimes it isn’t. Let the situation dictate the method that is thebest choice.
Higher tolerance for ambiguity can facilitatenew ideas and creative thinking. It can be helpful when communicating in asituation where the communicators do notspeak the same native language.
The best communication techniques aren’talways black and white. You are who you are – knowing your ownpersonality and its relationship to ambiguitytolerance can be a big help in effectivecommunication.
Kajs, L. T., & McCollum, D. L. (2009). Examining Tolerance for Ambiguity inthe Domain of Educational Leadership. Academy Of Educational LeadershipJournal, 13(2), 1.Levitt, D., & Jacques, J. D. (2005). Promoting Tolerance for Ambiguity inCounselor Training Programs. Journal Of Humanistic Counseling,Education & Development, 44(1), 46-54.Shuhong, W., Xiaomeng, Z., & Martocchio, J. (2011). Thinking Outside of theBox When the Box Is Missing: Role Ambiguity and Its Linkage toCreativity. Creativity Research Journal, 23(3), 211- 221.doi:10.1080/10400419.2011.595661Wilkinson, D. (2006). The Ambiguity Advantage: What Great Leaders are Great At.NY: Palgrave Macmillan.