I’ve always had trouble making decisions. Even when it comes to something as simple as what to eat for dinner, or which Netflix movie to watch, I somehow place more significance on the decision than I rationally know I should. My indecisive behavior is often viewed by friends and family as harmless or even humorous. But then it becomes annoying. I get a lot of eye rolls or frustrated sighs. Yet indecision has followed me–and often plagued me–since childhood, through adolescence, and into my adult life.
Oddly enough, my uncertainty often plagues me more when it comes to simple choices, like picking a restaurant. And while the “where to eat” dilemma is a common argument, particularly among co-habitating couples, I tend to view my own struggle to choose pizza or Pad Thai as a character flaw.
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Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t fully understand the triviality of these decisions. I do. But it doesn’t matter. I continue to weigh each option with the same gravity someone might use when choosing a career path or a romantic partner.
Trouble with decision making is a telltale sign of the way the introverted brain works. So before you get too frustrated with your friend or partner’s waffling ways, consider why they’re waffling (though it can certainly get annoying the hungrier you get):
1. I’m always weighing potential complications and consequences. When you ask me a question, and I immediately get quiet, I’m not ignoring you or zoning out. I’m not even being truly indecisive. Instead, I’m weighing the pros and cons of each option to evaluate which choice seems best. You might think this is silly. But have a little patience. Or better yet, voice your opinion so I know where to direct my internal pondering.
2. I want everyone else’s input, too. About 70 percent of highly sensitive people (HSPs) are introverts. Sensitive introverts are highly attuned to the emotions of others, and concerned about how their decisions will affect those around them. Before making a decision, these introverts often want to weigh the benefits and drawbacks with regard not only to themselves, but also to anyone else who has a stake in the outcome.
3. I want to avoid conflict. Many introverts, especially sensitive ones, dislike confrontation and almost always opt for quiet compromise. As a result, an introvert’s indecisiveness is often not indecisiveness at all. Rather, it’s a mask for not wanting to make waves by voicing what might be an unpopular choice. This is not to say that introverts are followers by nature. In fact, research shows that introverts often make great leaders because they are more attuned to the needs of their employees and are more likely to logically weigh outcomes instead of acting impulsively. However, in social circles I’d often rather appease others than incite conflict, so I’m more likely to keep quiet about my opinion and let others voice their suggestions first.
4. I have anxiety about making the wrong decision. In the case of choosing sushi or salad, the consequences of making a so-called “wrong decision” are minor (mild food poisoning at worst). Yet as an introvert, I constantly overanalyze each minor outcome and get caught up in endless loops of overthinking.
For example, choosing sushi might mean going to the good sushi place, which might mean traveling farther than I want to travel that night, and paying extra for a cab. And do I really have an extra ten bucks to spend on a cab? I should probably be saving that extra ten bucks because my rent is due tomorrow and most of my credit cards are approaching the limit. Suddenly choosing sushi becomes a metaphor for my poor personal finance skills. Endless loops.
5. I like too many things. A favorite quote of mine comes from Jack Kerouac’s most famous work, On the Road, in which he says, “I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop.” It’s a quote that often gave me solace, particularly when I was a recent college graduate with a degree in English and absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of my life.
Although Kerouac sadly never found solace, his and other literary works often serve as great sources of comfort for introverts, when we feel out of touch with conventional society’s directive to pursue a singular goal with ruthless ambition. When we “like too many things,” we often feel pulled in so many different directions that we’re unable to untangle ourselves from our conflicting desires.
6. I really don’t know what I want. And that’s okay! Sometimes I have no idea what I want, or I want everything all at once. Or, I’m so incredibly sick of choosing between the same options that I honestly don’t care anymore. A common misconception about introverts is that we crave routine. While that may be true in certain circumstances, many introverts, including myself, love to try new things, travel to new places, sample new restaurants, and meet new people. We’re not simply looking for the same old. In fact, we’re always looking for something better.
7. Sometimes I just want you to choose. When I feel overwhelmed, sometimes the only saving grace is to move to the passenger seat and let someone else take over for a little while. As an introvert, I’m more inclined to apologize for my indecision than to simply embrace it, so sometimes it helps if the people around me take control for a change and just let me relax.
Regardless of whether it’s choosing a new hairstyle or a new career path, similar anxieties may arise. And oftentimes, introverts just crave a little understanding from those around us, so we can truly embrace the benefits of our vacillating ways.