Why You Should Ditch Decision-making By Committee

2010 April 13

Hate To Break It To You is a recurring feature wherein we dispense succinct home truths that everyone could benefit from facing up to, unpleasant as they may be.

Your life can’t be lived by consensus. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was A) encouraged to be a little more revelatory on GenMeh and B) dealing with a troll over at Bitch who was all over me for doing just that in my column there. More or less simultaneously. Heh. Good thing I’m not a people pleaser, right?

Photo by dsleeter_2000

You can never achieve perfect harmony between the decisions you make and a universally positive response they may elicit from others. And why would you want to? Well, we all know why you’d want to. There’s safety in numbers, there’s a soothing balm to knowing that you and your choices have been thoroughly vetted and deemed worthy/correct/appropriate by those in the know (everyone from your great uncle to your college roommate to internet strangers and the checkout clerk at Whole Foods). Adios, insecurity and ambiguity.

And many of us expend an awful lot of time and energy on convincing others of the rightness of our decisions, as if their approval could actually strengthen the quality of the choice itself, or somehow validate it as the correct path. And surely there are brownie points (or perhaps, actual brownies?) for winning over the hold-out naysayers? For using your powers of persuasion and Martin Luther King level rhetorical skills to break down their resistance and bring them onside? Don’t hold your breath.

What if we channeled this energy (both physical and psychic) into building confidence in our own judgment, into dissecting and overcoming the fear(s) that makes us depend on others to rubber stamp our intentions, into developing skills and strategies for coping with the repercussions of choices that don’t pan out as expected (hint: the world will probably still keep spinning if you drop out of grad school). Because all of the folks who gave you the thumbs up in the moment? Well, if your decision happens to go south, rest assured they won’t be sharing in the accountability. You’re gonna wear this one, so you might as well make the decision that you can live with, not the one that makes it easier to live with others.

Seek advice, do your homework, but trust your gut over a straw poll.

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