Saturday, August 23, 2008


"After months of thinking, deliberating, and soul-searching, the time has come for me to make a big decision. How do I work up the courage to say something one way or another and stop the dithering?"

I think we dither when we aren’t ready yet. If dithering is happening, I see that as a sign that the big decision isn’t actually made yet – more time is necessary. Maybe it’s time for less thinking and deliberating and soul-searching, and more percolating and breathing and just plain waiting for clarity. It’s possible, I think, to focus in too tightly on a problem. Maybe backing off a bit will help you figure out what you want to say as well as how to say what you want to say in such a way that working up courage will become unnecessary.

Of course, it’s also possible that courage is necessary because what is right and good for you directly conflicts with what you believe is right and good for the people you’re afraid to talk with. If that’s the case, waiting a bit might still be useful because it might help you figure out what your fears are so that you can address those fears without hurting the other person. The danger here is that waiting, if you are truly clear about what you’re wanting, might end up hurting the other person even more, since (assuming this is something they will have to find out about eventually) waiting will add deception to an already difficult situation. You know what I mean… “You’ve known this since then and you’re only just now telling me???!!!” If that’s the case, then reminding yourself that you’re causing more pain by waiting than by being honest right now might help you gather the courage you require.

I hope something here helps, although I realize that with my long delay in replying to your question you are probably all done dithering…


emma said...

I was thinking about dithering just recently. I wrote this:

There are those who make a decision, have a moment's pause about it, and then yes! Take that dive into the icy water! Quickly adjust and find they were happy to have done it that way.

But here are some other routes, which are equally valid:

There are those who make a decision, have a moment's pause about it, and find that actually they want to play with the idea of how the next few minutes/hours/weeks might feel if they really do follow through on this decision. They actually haven't made their final decision, they've stated a preference. But by presenting it as a decision to themselves, and perhaps to others, they are trying it on for size mentally. They may actually then decide that diving into the swimming pool isn't what they want to do at all, and head off for a jacuzzi instead. And, in swimming pool scenarios, noone is hurt or more than momentarily inconvenienced by such vacillations. In fact, with a difficult decision to make, I often advise people to throw a coin. Heads means yes, tails means no. Then live as if the coin actually made the decision for a little while (seconds, minutes, hours) and see what your gut tells you. If you have that sinking feeling, your gut is telling you the coin chose wrong [disclaimer: I do not believe that coins can really make life decisions for us]

Or here's another one: someone thinks they want to go in the swimming pool, but actually what they want is to ease in very slowly without ever having that shock. They sit on the side for a while and dabble their toes. They stand on the steps and get in as far as their knees, and then maybe up to their thighs and, well, we don't need to go through every portion of the anatomy. No agony, just gentle gradual immersion.

Now, saying "the best way is to suddenly take the plunge!" is assuming that there is only one way of making certain kinds ofdecision - short and sharp and irreversible (because however much you can climb out of the swimming pool if you didn't like it, the net result is that you are cold and a little shocked by the sudden temperature shift - I mean, physically shocked). And that is indeed the case in a speeding truck scenario. You get off the road plenty quick. But getting into a swimming pool, or many other issues - actually, there is no stopwatch. Maybe a person is a take-the-plunge person. But if they aren't, and they don't have to be in a particular scenario, what is the value of endorsing the take-the-plunge approach?

Penne said...

I think I feared losing courage by dithering - kind of wished I'd "taken the plunge" (although I'm definitely a sit-on-the-side-of-the-pool person). I read recently that depression may serve a purpose in preventing us from acting too soon in a matter of great consequence. The problem is that during dithering, you have time for your imagination to "treat" you to a play of scenarios that could come from your decision. This may not be helpful, thinking about the consequences too much. I mean, you may have to face those consequences later anyway, and here you've lived with them for months. Even more pain!

I've used the coin toss idea in other decisions but oh, in those innocent times, it was which restaurant to choose or paint color. Still...I think it would be a useful exercise.

nawny said...

That first visceral reaction to the coin toss is rich with information.