Use Doubt To Empower Decision Making


What is Doubt?

Doubt is basically uncertainty about one’s skills, data, the viability of business models, feasibility of technical ideas, the trustworthiness of a person in position power.

We avoid doubt because we judge it. Society rewards people who seem certain, even when everyone knows they’re not.

Doubt As a Sign of Weakness

To add drama, we add judgements to doubt, twisting it into something entirely unwanted:

doubt = uncertainty = low self-confidence = low skill = weak = bad =

person not to be trusted ≠ a leader

Men fear it and feel the need to show that they’re certain, even when they’re not. Women fear it and believe that it means they’re not “good enough.” Children fear it by the time they’re old enough to take tests and see how doubt it treated in today’s world.

The worst thing to do is convince yourself that you’re certain about everything. This can lead to a narcissistic state, which creates more problems than it solves. Researchers may argue that “productive narcissism” is useful, as many narcissistic people are considered visionaries such as the late Steve Jobs, but all in all, there is more downside to upside when it comes to a perceived sense of complete certainty.

Apart from the negative judgments associated to it, why do leaders avoid doubt? Whether consciously or non-cosnciously, they fear the associated feelings and expected consequences, such as:

      • feeling uncertain
      • feeling unworthy, not good enough
      • seeming unsure to others
      • the repercussions of seeming unsure, such as: being ignored, overlooked, passed up for a promotion, labeled as “tentative,” considered indecisive
      • feeling/being distrusted by others
      • having low credibility or influence
      • feeling/being disrespected

Most people, quite like you, too — avoid feeling specific feelings because you think they mean something negative about your self. It’s also a function of the fact that we’ve collectively revered logical thinking over emotional intelligence and so, don’t speak the language of emotions fluently and as a result, don’t understand what our emotions are telling us.

When seen through a judgement, doubt is feared. When seen through a judgement-free lens, it’s powerful.

Doubt As a Source of Power

Looking from the Acropolis, a perspective that helps you detach emotionally from what’s happening, doubt becomes a powerful tool that supports robust decision making and nurtures humility.

Humility helps you stay grounded in the knowing that you don’t know everything and always have something to learn. Humility also reminds you that as a human, you’re good at focusing and when you focus, you don’t see other things around you. Test yourself with this fun video.

Doubt can be seen as an informant that tells you about what you’re assuming/thinking, feeling and doing:

      • you’re rushing
      • you need new data
      • you’d benefit from creative perspectives of the situation
      • you’re downplaying/excluding existing data
      • you’re looking at the problem with a narrow perspective
      • consider learning from past experience, other emotions that surface, intuitive signals
      • you fear consequences
      • you want to control the outcome, putting your attention on the future vs being present
      • you’re judging your feeling of doubt or decision making process, clouding your ability to see what’s really there
      • you’re assuming that doubt means something about you and your competence as a leader
      • you’re avoiding your feelings, such as feeling unsure

You can surely glean additional information from your feeling of doubt. Consider them all and then course-correct. The more you practice learning from your feelings, the faster you’ll be able to identify and decode their messages. As you integrate your rational, emotional and intuitive processes and resulting information, you’ll be able to make consistently congruent decisions that generate excellent outcomes, across contexts.

Experiment with This Idea

Practice embracing doubt for an entire day.

Notice what is different in the way you think, feel, behave and what happens as a result of this new lens. Ask others if they noticed a difference in you or the interactions you led. Practice at home if you feel that the workplace is too risky and invite your family members to try embracing doubt, as well.

The more you use your feelings/emotions as a useful database of valuable information, the faster you can express them (and release them) and the more informed your decisions become.

Use doubt for the insight that it can give you, rather than avoid it because of the meaning you give it.



[Image from Freepik]