How Ambivalence Can Help You Make Better Decisions

Some decisions require careful thought – weighing the pros and cons and trying to achieve the best possible outcome. But some people are indecisive in almost everything, big or small. Whether you are dealing with an ambivalent person or are ambivalent yourself, you know this can be annoying.

But ambivalence may not be as bad as we think it is, according to new research published in the British Journal of Social Psychology . In an article for Psychology Today , Dr. Susan Krauss Whitborne, emeritus professor of psychology and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, sheds additional light on the potential benefits of ambivalence, as well as its downside. Here’s what you need to know.

How to use your duality to your advantage

Basically, it all boils down to the fact that ambivalent people spend time considering different aspects of an issue, which can lead to more informed decisions. Whitbourne uses the example of going to a restaurant with a certain family member who always takes order forever , and on the nerves of everyone (including servers). Here is her opinion :

Balancing factors such as healthier choices, price, and cooking method may ultimately lead to better choices than rushing to get to the top of the list of possible meals. How many times have you been disappointed when you brought your own main course, and realized that you made the wrong choice in a hurry?

The downside of ambivalence

Aside from things that take a long time, there is another negative aspect of ambivalence, says Whitbourne:

A quick fix may be the mental equivalent of removing the dressing from the wound without hesitation. It can be painful, but that’s it. For chronically ambivalent people, the inability to resolve conflict can lead to tension, anxiety, and an overall negative state of mind.

So keep that in mind the next time you find yourself in a situation involving a particularly indecisive person (including yourself).


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