Contemp Culture, Future, Meaning, Quotes, Ramblings

Decisions and Ambivalence

The Wall Street Journal recently posted a great article on ambivalence called ‘Why So Many People Can’t Make Decisions.’  As a rather ambivalent individual, I appreciated all the nice things the article had to say about people like me:

Ambivalent individuals’ ability to see all sides of an argument and feel mixed emotions appears to have some benefits. They may be better able to empathize with others’ points of view, for one thing. And when people are able to feel mixed emotions, such as hope and sadness, they tend to have healthier coping strategies, such as when a spouse passes away, according to Dr. Larsen. They may also be more creative because the different emotions lead them to consider different ideas that they might otherwise have dismissed.

Unfortunately, being a balanced article, it also said some mean and nasty challenging things.

In the workplace, employees who are highly ambivalent about their jobs are more erratic in job performance; they may perform particularly well some days and poorly other times, says René Ziegler, a professor of social and organizational psychology at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

People who are truly ambivalent in a relationship can’t put the negative out of their mind. They may worry about being hurt or abandoned even in moments when their partner is doing something nice, says Mario Mikulincer, dean of the New School of Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel.

Lots of interesting tangents to discuss here.  The article touches on two major areas of life – work and relationships.  It would be interesting to look at ambivalence and stress levels, ambivalence and leadership, ambivalence and faith, and the relationship between ambivalence and apathy.

One big question that I had as I read the article is whether our culture/generation may be growing in ambivalence.  The article mentions a Western/Eastern mindset gap, but I wonder if that may be rather dated, or less true of younger generations which tend to live in and experience a globalized and pluralized world.



One thought on “Decisions and Ambivalence

  1. Dave, I read the article earlier this week, and I have to say it made me think of you. Thanks for writing a blog post about it.

    On your question about younger generations becoming increasingly ambivalent: I wonder if it is just a question of being given the “space” to be ambivalent. As there are more and more choices available to us, as our worlds become increasingly pluralistic, and as truth becomes increasingly blurry, the ambivalent come out of hibernation. When you went to the store and there was only two styles of shoes available, there wasn’t a lot of room to be ambivalent. Now that we can assess every shoe made on the internet and get it delivered to our door, the possibilities for ambivalence have grown.


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