Is There Virtue In Indecision? You Decide.

A fresh look at taking time to make up your mind.
Is There Virtue In Indecision? You Decide.

Consider the massive popularity of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, the 2007 bestseller glorifying lightning-fast decision-making. It is unusual to think of indecision as a desirable trait, especially if it manifests in the workplace.

However, barring minor decisions such as where to eat next, could indecision simply point to the gravity of hard choices being taken seriously, and in the process reveal more about one’s values and identity?

Professor Daniel Newark, who studies decision-making, identity and behaviour, suggests that mulling over the outcomes of two or more options allows us to be introspective and gain unique dimensions of self-awareness. In his 2014 paper, “Indecision and the Construction of Self”, he writes: “The contemplations and conversations characteristic of indecision may help construct, discover, or affirm who one is.”

He adds that the process of seeking advice when struggling to come to a decision can inspire “conversations of meaning” and strengthen professional bonds.

Studies also suggest that unless there is easily processed information (usually quantified, and presented in charts or infographics), we tend to hesitate to commit to a serious decision. An overload of incoherent information, in this digital age of conflicting viewpoints, can cause doubts in even the most decisive individuals. Professor Newark argues that in weighing possible reactions to different personal stances, we negotiate a stronger identity amid this confusion.

Still, the consensus seems to be that too much waffling should be avoided. In a 2005 paper, social scientists Professors Eric Rassin and Peter Muris even suggest a connection between excessive indecisiveness and irrationality – test subjects who were overly indecisive tend to view ambiguous situations as dangerous.

So in the journey of deciding what to do, it would be wise to ask for help, not put off making a decision out of fear, and set a time to act on your eventual decision. And instead of only seeing indecision as a problem to be solved, consider it a way to discover more about who you are.

    Nov 9, 2015
    Chia Soong Ming
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