Good and Bad Ambiguity

Good ambiguity is ambiguity by design. It’s potentially withholding information in order to propel someone forward by pushing them to discover their own agency in solving problems and making decisions.

It’s reflecting questions back when you’ve got the space to use it as a growing opportunity, and to build up the person asking the question. It’s using silence to allow for deeper reflection, building the systems to support forward motion among uncertainty, and crafting a safe space for people to make missteps and learn from them.

Bad ambiguity is ambiguity without design. It’s withholding information for no purpose, or to increase your own status or power through opacity rather than transparency.

It’s not being intentional with design or being dismissive because you don’t want to put in the emotional labor of interacting with fellow humans. It’s not caring enough to consider others and designing directions, experiences, or things from only your perspective. It’s ambiguity based on fear, carelessness, or malice.

As with most things, the ambiguity you build can be either amazing or terrible, so it’s up to you to choose.

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