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Making Sense of Indecisiveness

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Do you know someone who can’t make up their mind? Are you one of them? If so, what can cause us to be this way? Let’s find out.


“Indecision and delays are the parents of failure.” George Canning 1779–1827)

Who doesn’t know someone that is indecisive? You know the type. Some would say they couldn’t make a decision if their life depended on it.

The issue with these people is that their indecisiveness is not about major life-altering decisions but minor ones. For whatever reason, they just can’t make up their mind. If you are like many of us, their indecision frustrates you to no end!

Why are some people so hesitant? Are they afraid of making a mistake? If so, how much information would be enough? Can there ever be enough for this type of person? Perhaps it is something else?

Admit it, while you may be the type who makes quicker decisions, everyone has moments of indecision. Not me, you say! We’ll see!

Let’s delve a little deeper into the reality of indecisiveness by asking ourselves some questions:

  • How do you deal with something you don’t want to do? Do you give a definite no, or do you say something like: “Let me get back to you” or “Let me think about it.”

  • How often have you stalled on making a decision using the negotiation tactic called higher authority? It often sounds like, “I need to discuss it with my wife/husband/someone else first.”

  • Have you ever put off a decision by saying: “I’ll get to it later,” or “I will get around to it when I am older.”

  • How are you at making long-term and life-changing commitments? Do you hesitate like most of us?

Indecisiveness shows up in many ways, including the frustrating type who 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 significant decision such as purchasing a car or making a serious commitment such as marriage.

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 ones?

Yes, it can be frustrating when the boss can’t make up their 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 sharply, such as “Just make a decision already!” Or you can be patient and try to help.

But how can you help them, provided you are in such a position? An easy way is to use the coaching technique of asking simple open-ended questions to help them get to the root of their indecision. For more about how to ask questions, check out this article: Add Power to Your Questions

Before continuing, please understand attempts to get someone to change often backfires. As you may have heard, you can’t make someone else change, but you can change yourself. When you change, you create the possibility for them to change.

One change you can make is to be considerate and helpful instead of frustrated or condescending. You can also seek to understand what is causing their indecisiveness. Does the size or the importance of the decision matter? What other thoughts come to mind?

What is behind indecisiveness?

“Indecision, doubt and fear. The members of this unholy trio are closely related; where one is found, the other two are close at hand.” Napoleon Hill (1883–1970)

What causes indecisiveness? Let’s look at a few reasons someone may be indecisive:

  • Fear of making the wrong decision

  • Not having enough information

  • Unwillingness to commit

  • Resistance to change

  • Rules, real or imagined

  • Past experiences

  • Outside influences

  • Lack of self-understanding

  • Lack of interest

  • Confusion

There are likely other reasons why someone can become indecisive; however, it is important to remember that whenever a person does not make a decision, they must still choose not to make one. They decide not to decide!

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

“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 (1949-present)

There is much wisdom in Graham’s statement. Rather than prolonging and drawing out a decision, it is often better to make it. Sure, consider the consequences of doing so, but do so quickly. Don’t get bogged down. That way, the decision will be clean and straight without the hacks, tears, and rough edges created by indecision.

Final thoughts

“More is lost by indecision than wrong decision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity. It will steal you blind.” Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC)

The purpose of this article is not to provide a solution for indecisiveness. My intent here is to take a different approach to understanding 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 small and big decisions in life. The little decisions only slow you down, while those that take a commitment are important to living a settled and peaceful life, especially when they relate to spiritual matters.

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

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

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