How to Better Understand a Person Who Can't Seem to Make up Their Mind

Bill Abbate

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Have you ever met an indecisive person? You know the type. The person who couldn't make a decision if their life depended on it. We're only talking about a minor decision, not something life-altering, yet they just can't make up their mind. For some of us, that person will frustrate us to no end!

What is the reason for this hesitation in some people? Is it because they are afraid they will make a mistake? How much information is enough? Can there ever be enough for this type of person?

Admit it, while we may be the type that makes quicker decisions, we all have moments of indecision. Not me you say! Let's see if you are right!

Indecisiveness

Even the most decisive person will have times of indecision. Times when you don't want to make a decision because of what may result from it.

Let's delve a little deeper into the reality of indecisiveness. Ask yourself some questions first:

  • How do you deal with something you don't want to do? Do you give them a definite no, or because of indecision, do you say something like: "let me get back to you" or "let me think about it" or "I need to discuss it with so-and-so first."
  • How often have you stalled on making a decision using the negotiation tactic called higher authority (where you say you must get with someone else before deciding)?
  • Do you ever put off a decision by saying: "I'll get to it later," or "I will eventually get around to it, maybe when I am older."
  • How are you at making long-term or life-changing commitments?

Indecisiveness can show up in many ways other than the frustrating type where a person can't decide what to order at a restaurant.

How important is the decision?

There is a huge difference between being indecisive about what to order off a restaurant menu and a larger decision such as purchasing a car or choosing to make a serious commitment (such as marriage) in your life.

Have you noticed we tend to view people as indecisive when they can't make their minds up about the little things, not the bigger or more impactful things in life?

Yes, it can be frustrating when the boss can't make up his or her mind about something at work. Or when someone remains on the fence about purchasing a new appliance because the old one is going on the fritz. But what can you do about it?

You can express yourself to the person in a sharp tone, such as "just make a decision already!" Or you can be patient with them and try to help.

But how can you help them, provided you are in such a position? You may help by asking some simple questions to get to the root of the indecision.

Before continuing, please understand you or I can't make anyone change. When you attempt to do so, it usually backfires. As you may have heard before, you can't make anyone change, but you can change. When change happens in you, there is the possibility of change in them.

One change you can make is to be considerate and helpful instead of being frustrated and condescending. Another change is to seek to understand what is causing their indecisiveness. Does the size or the importance of the decision matter? What do you think?

What is behind indecisiveness?

What causes indecisiveness? Let's look at a few of the reasons you will find behind a person's indecision:

  • Fear of making the wrong decision
  • Not having enough information
  • Unwillingness to commit
  • Unwillingness to change
  • Rules, either real or imagined
  • Past experiences
  • Outside influences
  • Lack of self-understanding
  • Lack of interest
  • Confusion

There are likely many other reasons why someone can become indecisive. However, it is important to remember - anytime a person does not make a decision, they are still making a decision. They are deciding not to decide!

One of the best statements ever made about what results from decision and indecision is in this quote:

"Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight; indecision, a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind it." Gordon Graham

Have you ever read such a clear reason to be decisive? Rather than prolonging and drawing out a decision, it is often better to make it, one way or another, with its ultimate or long-term consequence in mind. That way, it is clean and straight without all of the problems and stress created through indecision.

Final words

The purpose of this article was not to provide a solution for indecisiveness. My intent here is to take a different approach to understand better what makes a person indecisive. As shown, everyone has times of indecision. We wouldn't be human if we didn't!

If you have one takeaway from this article, I hope you see the importance of not waiting until it's too late to make the big decisions in life. Those decisions that take a big commitment over the long term are important to living a settled and relatively peaceful life, especially when they relate to spiritual matters.

If you have considered becoming a Christian, for example, why continue to be indecisive? Once you commit, your life will change forever in a good way! Perhaps that is what you fear?

Fear not! Make the decision to decide today. Do not decide not to decide; decide to decide!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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