Kathi Whitten, LCSW - Individual, Couple & Family Psychotherapy

Are you someone who sizes something up very quickly and acts immediately? Or perhaps someone who needs to see every possible facet of a situation, so you can slowly and thoughtfully make a decision on how to proceed.

In general, both of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages. They both constitute ‘styles’ of handling things. If they work well for you – then there is little need to be worried.

However, there are a few ways that decision making can be troublesome for people. These other ‘styles’ of responding to situations can sometimes lead to unintended consequences.

One way this might occur is when someone feels such a lack of confidence; they are unable actively to decide to choose a response unless someone else has confirmed their choice. I do not speak of situations where someone else’s okay is necessary (for example at work, or on committees) but a true shakiness in believing in their own wisdom. They might feel what they decide is not good enough, or that it will be “wrong” and they will suffer embarrassment.

Another less effective style of responding could more accurately be called “reacting.”  Unlike the person who quickly assesses things and makes a confident decision based on solid experience, this person could be said to be caught in an emotional place that propels them forward (often impulsively) to decide to do things they might otherwise not have chosen with a little more actual thought and foresight.

Yet another “style” of responding to situations is to “keep your bases covered.” That is, to passively respond to something, while still making sure that there is at least one “escape clause” (usually to escape any possible blame.) This is sometimes referred to as the “passive-aggressive” stance. Basically, it is an attempt to avoid anyone’s questioning the respondent’s actions.

There are other “styles” of course, but by now you can see that some work more effectively than others. Psychotherapy can be very helpful for people who have found themselves reacting to situations in ways that do not, in the long run, prove helpful for them. Sometimes people don’t quickly notice their own contribution to undesired outcomes. But, if one is very honest, one can often see that being too frightened, emotional, impulsive or unwilling fully to accept responsibility for decisions can get in the way of effective communication or problem solving.

If you are having difficulty of this sort, you may want to consider making an appointment with a psychotherapist to work on the underlying factors that might have you unable to communicate effectively with others. Sometimes an individual might feel “stuck” in this effort – but often there is also a “family style” of making ineffective decisions that might also need to be looked at for the well-being of everyone. Making life choices that lead to positive goals can improve self-esteem, confidence and usually interpersonal relationships.

Copyright Kathi Whitten 2008