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Navigating Uncertainty: A Guide for Making Sound Decisions in a Shifting World

Chardo Richardson

Nov 13, 2023

Uncertainty is a constant companion in our lives, affecting every aspect from relationships to politics. The ongoing shifts in our world can trigger anxiety, but by focusing on what we can control, we can find steadiness even in turbulent times. Uncertainty affects not only leaders but individuals from all walks of life. Let's explore how to navigate uncertainty and make sound decisions, no matter where you stand.

Understanding Uncertainty Reduction Theory

Uncertainty Reduction Theory, rooted in interpersonal communication, reveals how humans seek more information during initial interactions with strangers. This quest for information aims to predict and explain actions, ultimately reducing uncertainty and fostering likability. We can apply this theory beyond personal interactions, using it as a tool to navigate uncharted waters.

The Essential Role of Information

As leaders or individuals facing uncertainty, the first step is to gather as much information as possible. Objectively evaluate this information before adding your subjective assessments. Information serves as your guiding star in uncertain times, helping you navigate through unfamiliar terrain.

Being Prepared for Uncertainty

In today's world, where nothing seems certain, it's crucial to acknowledge the ever-changing landscape of communication methods, technology, information, and the economy. Uncertainty is part and parcel of life, and your ability to manage it and make wise decisions will be your armor as you shape the future of your organization or community.

Steps to Navigate Uncertainty

When you find yourself in the pressure cooker of uncertainty, and you are the one with the power to decide, follow these steps to guide yourself or those who look up to you:

1. Center Yourself

Begin by taking a few deep breaths. Deep breathing helps reduce stress and enhances your sense of ease. Activating your Autonomic Nervous System's Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) through deep breathing is essential, especially when making decisions about leadership.

2. Consider the Situation

Take a moment to consider the situation and the conditions you are in. Pay attention to  your initial thoughts and feelings. While instincts can serve well in emergencies,  following a process becomes increasingly important as you take on more complex  leadership roles.

3. Analyze Variables

Think about the variables involved in your decision. Every choice has known and unknown consequences that will affect what comes next. Carefully consider factors like participants, expenses, time, and implications for all parties involved. Thorough decision-making requires accounting for unique and specific variables, but you may not recognize them all. Seek to control the variables known to you at the time.

4. Make a Predictive Decision

Formulate a prediction: what do you believe the most likely result will be if you choose one course of action over another? What is the opportunity cost? In other words, if you choose one course of action over another, what are you giving up? Once a decision has been made, follow through on it and involve the relevant parties. Additionally, decide if and when you will reassess your decision.  


Navigating uncertainty is a skill that can be honed with practice. Soon, this process will become second nature, allowing you to make sound decisions even when faced with the most challenging situations. 

So, whether you're a leader, a team member,  or an individual navigating life's uncertainties,  these steps can guide you toward a path of  informed and confident decision-making.

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