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How to Deal With Someone Who Can't Make a Decision

by Rebecca Rogge

What to have for lunch. Where to attend college. The blue dress or the red dress. Whether to end a relationship. What kind of car to drive. When to have a baby, get married, or buy a house. These are all difficult decisions to make. Sometimes, the only thing more frustrating than trying to make these decisions yourself is dealing with an indecisive friend who's trying to do so. Dealing with indecisive people can be irritating; patience and supportive yet firm input can help both parties. Methods for dealing with someone who can't make a decision vary based on your relationship with the indecisive person.

Analyze behavior and thinking to determine the motive for indecision or stalling. Indecisive people may not know why they're so hesitant to make a decision; try to create an environment where discussion is encouraged and open. Making a list of pros and cons for each option can be helpful and can help you get at the heart of the person's indecision. Don't be demanding if you don't have to be; excessive pressure can make an indecisive person panic and freeze even more.

Verbalize the benefits of making a decision. Many stallers put off making a decision until the situation resolves itself or someone else makes a decision for them. Reminding them of the positives of concluding the matter can be a powerful impetus to making a decision. For example, remind them of the feeling of relief they'll have when the matter is no longer hanging over their head. Remind them, in a positive way, that in a workplace context, decisions are crucial for moving forward, putting a project to bed and getting a paycheck. For simple matters, encourage the person to realize that whichever choice they make -- Mexican or Thai for dinner, yellow tie or red -- they will most likely be happy with the decision and it isn't a huge deal if they aren't.

Offer encouragement. Indecisive people may avoid making a decision for fear of offending others or dealing with the consequences of a poor decision. Remind the person that the decision is his own, and that he is free to think for himself, without fearing others' opinions. If the decision will affect others, positive reminders of skills he has or research he has done that will help him make the most effective decision can be helpful. Instilling self confidence can help him focus on abilities, not potential shortcomings.

Walk away, if necessary. Ultimately, it's important to remember that the decision isn't yours. If you're becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient with the person and can no longer deal with her indecision, you may need to step away from the relationship or at least remove yourself from temptation. For example, if a friend's constant equivocation over where to meet for lunch is driving you to distraction, invite her to your place, or simply suggest, "Let's meet at (X location) for lunch."

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