July 21, 2023

The Language of Uncertainty

Over the last few years I’ve found myself trying to nail down those few, core values and principles that resonate most with me.

Empathy is a lock for this list.

Curiosity is close behind, same with creativity, kindness, love and maybe awe.

But the one that’s making more and more sense as I grow older is uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a little tricky, right? It feels like we all need, or at least want, to feel certain about our lives and work and choices and beliefs. And that’s magnified when we’re surrounded by people who are certain about their lives and work and choices and beliefs.

Kelly Corrigan hit on this in a recent podcast when she shared the perspective of a friend who is an incredibly successful, respected scientist.

Although she’s well known in the community of scientists, she’s very rarely quoted by the media because when they call her for quotes she speaks with the language of uncertainty. And probabilistic language is often rejected because they prefer in the media concrete, declarative statements.

Kelly Corrigan Wonders, Episode #104

I’ve long felt like that media coverage is a unique insight into our sort of collective personality – we are, after all, their customers – and this idea from Kelly really drives that home. We’re surrounded by certainty. And I wonder if this culture, in turn, makes us feel…I dunno…a little anxious or out of place if our voice isn’t just as sure as the one’s we’re used to hearing.

But as my life keeps ambling along, it’s not just that I feel less and less certain about things, it’s that I see less and less value in being certain about things. I love the idea of living with intellectual humility; the idea that I could be wrong.

Like all things, there is certainly a balance to strike. But even a little slice of uncertainty can make a big difference.

If I’m talking to someone who disagrees with me and I’m 100% sure I’m right, there’s only room in my brain’s “wrong” category for their views. But even going down to 99%? That opens the door juuuuust a little to the possibility that they’re right. And that possibility, even though it’s slim, gives me at least some reason to listen to their point of view and try to understand their side. It helps us be open to what someone is really feeling, not what I’ve already decided they’re feeling.

With empathy high on my list, I can see why uncertainty feels so right.

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The Language of Uncertainty
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Hi, I'm Gregg.

I'm a SaaS marketer and maker.


Never heard of me? All good, these days I don't chase influence as much as I do balance. By day I run marketing for Inntopia and evenings see me building SendView, but my happy place is playing in the mountains with my family.