The 3 Big Reasons People Aren't Decisive – And How to Overcome Them

January 10, 2018

Tips for overcoming indecision and steps for becoming more decisive.

A big part of being a leader – and, regardless of what your position is, you can be seen as a leader – is being decisive.

Virtually every study into the matter found that making fast decisions is far superior to making slow ones, as indecision brings organizations to a halt, creates resentment and prevents learning.

Sounds great. But nobody strives to be indecisive – they are indecisive primarily for three big reasons.

What are those reasons? And, more importantly, how do you overcome those traps and become more decisive?

In her LinkedIn Learning course Acting Decisively, LinkedIn Learning Instructor Dorie Clark listed out the three most common reasons for being indecisive – and how to overcome them.

    1. Being decisive is scary.

The most common reason of all for being indecisive – fear of failure.

Making a decision means you might be wrong. And nobody likes to be wrong.

How to overcome it

Being decisive can be intimidating. But remember – not making a decision is also making a decision. Inaction is often more damaging, so you actually increase your chances of failing by not deciding.

“Recognize that you're not a fortune teller and you won't be right 100 percent of the time,” Clark said in her course. “But, if you choose consciously and can defend your decision through careful research and listening to the opinions of knowledgeable people, then you've done all you can do.”

    2. Being decisive means hurting someone's feelings.

Often, making a decision means choosing one person’s idea over another’s. We as humans want to be liked, and so we are afraid that deciding against someone will ruin that relationship.

How to overcome it

Remember the lesson in the first bullet – not making a decision is also making a decision. By not making a decision, you are essentially saying both ideas are bad, and you’ll likely get all sides annoyed with you.

That said, being decisive might lead to some people getting upset at you. That’s life. But, by being proactive with the decision, you can control how it’s communicated – and people will respect you more in the long run.

“Some factions might not be happy with what you decide,” Clark said in her course. “But, if you take charge and make a decision in a timely fashion, you can control how the information is conveyed – so it's not dribbled out in a long and painful sequence.”

    3. Being decisive means deciding without all the information.

Almost always you are asked to make a decision with limited information. But, there's usually more information you could get – and so you delay the decision to get more information. At it's most extreme, it becomes paralysis by analysis.

How to overcome it

If you want more information, be specific – what information do you want? How long will it take to get? Is the delay worth getting that information?

Also, consider this approach. Almost always, you don’t have to make one big decision. You can generally make a smaller decision and then test and learn.

Say you are bringing a new product to market, for example. Rather than promote it like crazy on day one, you can do a soft launch to select markets and see how users respond. Then you can use those learnings to inform a larger launch.

Want to become more decisive? Watch Dorie Clark’s full course, Acting Decisively. Or, check out one of Clark’s other LinkedIn Learning courses: