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Problem Solving and Decision-Making Skills

How to Make a Decision

How to Make a Decision

According to the dictionary, the verb “decide” has the following meaning:

“To determine, to end, to resolve, to settle and to make up one’s mind”

The Latin root of the word “decisive” means to “cut away.” This gives perhaps the best indication as to what is really meant by the term. It is fundamentally to cut away the surrounding clutter and reveal the best possible option—A little like Michael Angelo who suggested that his job was to chip away the surplus stone to reveal the ‘Statue of David’ that was always contained within.

The ability to cut away the clutter, or to make decisions effectively, involves a range of common skills. These include data gathering, putting things into context, focusing on major facts and issues, hypothesis forming, logical processing, weighing alternatives, and ultimately, appropriate perception and judgment.

4 decision-making styles

If decisions are basically about revealing the one best possible choice or option, through the use of common skills mentioned above, the decision-making styles that we can adopt to get there can be very different. Although this will partly depend upon the time that we may have available and the complexity of the situation that we face, there are four general styles that we can use. These are Hesitant, Reflective, Focused and Fast.

People may utilize several Decision-making Styles in different situations and to achieve a variety of different goals. The following descriptions therefore briefly explain the basic characteristics of each of the four Decision-making Styles:

Hesitant Style

Individuals with a ‘Hesitant’ personal decision-making style are likely to make decisions (particularly complex ones) only when they have all the facts or information that they need at hand. As a result, hesitant decision-makers like to consider issues at their own pace and to consider all the possible implications of one choice over another. Where this brings uncertainty, the preference would be not to make a decision at all.

Reflective Style

Individuals with a ‘Reflective’ personal decision-making style will be likely to want to establish an external criteria by which to make a judgment or to understand the basis upon which a reasonable and appropriate decision can be made. Armed with as much data as they can gather, reflective styles types then like to take their time to think about the options and to use their reasoning ability to arrive at a decision that has been fully considered.

Focused Style

Individuals with a ‘focused’ personal decision-making style are likely to look for the core facts or the key information in a situation so as to be able to make a provisional decision relatively quickly in their mind. They will then look to confirm their provisional view by focusing on as much further confirmatory evidence as they can collect, and then select the option with the most advantages (or the least problems).

Fast Style

Individuals with a ‘Fast’ personal decision-making style will be likely to be instinctive decision-makers, who like to think that they can quickly assimilate the available information and move immediately into action. Fast decision making style people typically dislike any kind of procrastination and can therefore often make creative decisions or even daring ones in order to reach a conclusion and move on.

5 ways to make better decisions

Whatever dominant decision-making style you may have there are a few common approaches that we can all take to make better future decisions:

  1. Learn to trust your intuition or instincts a little more—research suggests that the fast acting intuitive part of our brain is often very effective and does not need the deep and slow analysis that we often impose on our decision making.
  2. Aim to be calm and centered and as unemotional as possible when trying to make decisions. Decision making works best when the distorting effects of emotion are kept to a minimum.
  3. When a decision is made by carefully weighing up the advantages and disadvantages or pros and cons, remember to use your creative side or imagination as well. Decision making is best done by engaging both sides of the brain in almost all cases.
  4. Avoid revisiting or worrying about your decisions after they have been made. If things change you can always make another decision but the best approach is to move on and focus on something else as an issue entirely.
  5. If you make a ‘wrong’ or clearly inappropriate decision, use it as a learning experience and not an excuse to recriminate.
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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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