Take the Guesswork Out of Decision Making

a Template for Resolving Decision Conflict

You can eliminate the paralyzing confusion and indecision that accompanies decisions like choosing a college, committing to marriage, taking early retirement, or any of the other of thousands of options that present themselves during a lifetime.

A simple conflict resolution system I learned in college over 50 years ago still helps me clarify choices and make critical decisions. Check it out. You will see clearly what is tying your stomach in knots and recognize what must be done to untie them.

Decision conflict comes in three forms.

Approach – Approach  Conflict

This type of conflict is demonstrated by a person who has two positive choices of seemingly equal value.

Good Option +  <—————–  Person  —————–> + Good Option

kd blog 1

You can recognize a person facing this kind of conflict because they seem paralyzed, unable to make any decision.   This kind of conflict does not often lead to great distress.

A student considering attending two equally attractive colleges or a person having access to two excellent careers would be an example of this kind of conflict.

Resolution:

This kind of conflict can be resolved in several ways.

  • Sometimes careful analysis will reveal that it might be possible to decide on one option now and be able to enjoy the benefits of the other option later.
  • Careful evaluation may also reveal that one option has more benefits than the other. In that case common sense would demand that you choose the best option.
  • Sometimes there is a final realization that both options are equal.  If that’s the case, resolution can only be made by making a choice, committing to that choice and moving on with your life.

Approach – Avoidance Conflict

This kind of conflict occurs when there is one goal or event that has both positive and negative effects or characteristics that make the goal appealing and unappealing simultaneously.

Person   ———————>   +   Good attractive benefits

Person <——————–     –   Negatively perceived consequenceskd blog 2

The closer one gets to the positive goal the more apparent the negative aspects of the goal appear.  Vacillation is the behavior most characteristic of one facing this kind of conflict.

A man may feel this kind of conflict as he contemplates marriage. He is attracted to a positive, beautiful, prospective mate. As he moves closer to “popping the question,” he becomes ever more aware of the cost of this commitment.

  • This will be the end to his freedom as a single man.
  • He will now share his wealth with someone.
  • He will be making a life long commitment to one person.

Unresolved, this conflict will result in the confusing prospect of one mate or the other alternately moving forward and then pulling away from the relationship; vacillation!

Resolution

The resolution of this kind of conflict and the resulting behavior only comes when one carefully weights the costs and benefits of the prospective goal. Listing them on paper is extremely helpful.

50 years ago I weighed the negative and positive aspects of marrying my wife Diane. I decided that the positive far outweighed the negative and made one of the best decisions of my life…  At least that’s what she told me this morning.

Avoidance – Avoidance Conflict

Negative choice     —————–> Person <——————     Negative Choice

This most painful and difficult of all decision conflicts is characterized by a person who has only negative options.

kd blog 3An example of this kind of conflict would be a person who is in a job they hate who has just been offered a promotion to another position they would equally hate. These are two choices with no apparent positive aspects to either.

Resolution

Other than living in misery, the characteristic behavior of those facing this kind of conflict is escape. Escape is also the only resolution. Escaping the environment to consider a whole new source of options provides the only emotional relief available from this kind of conflict.


These templates of conflict and resolution have been very valuable to me over the years.  They helped me identify some of the emotions I was feeling. They helped me investigate the positive and negative aspects of each decision.  And they helped me make major decisions and resolve the emotional conflict that accompanied those decisions.

I find it interesting that that the stress of making a decision is almost instantly relieved once I make that decision and commit to moving forward.

Seeking God’s guidance through prayer, seeking the advice of trusted friends, and evaluating each choice are all important aspects of the decision making process.

Eventually it comes down to taking action and making the decision.

What are some of the most difficult decisions you have had to make? Did you feel relief once you made the decision? 

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3 thoughts on “Take the Guesswork Out of Decision Making

  1. One of the hardest decisions I ever made was choosing to leave my mom’s house during my second year of college. I was definitely experiencing the avoidance-avoidance conflict. I could try to continue to passively receive emotional abuse or I could try to fight with her every second of the day until I graduated. Neither of these options are ideal or conducive to furthering my walk with Jesus. Through various avenues God showed me a third option and provided me with a place to stay until I figured out my next move. Unfortunately, that meant losing financial support for school, but God is always faithful. He opened a position up for me at my church, and is providing for my new husband and I as he returns to college. Maybe one day that door for education will be reopened to me. For now, I am blessed with a supportive husband, a fulfilling job leading kids to Jesus, and a healing relationship with my family. Even in the hardest decisions, God is always there and will lead you to the best place in His plan for you. Sometimes you have to trust Him enough to do the hardest thing imaginable to allow Him to lead you out of your comfort zone and into His provision. I’m so glad that God is a good Father!