One of the most insidious techniques manipulators use to gain control of your time and attention is trying to pressure you into making decisions before you’re ready, before you have adequate information, or before you’ve put thought and reflection into your decisions.
It makes sense, as a strategy for the manipulator. If you’re forced to make a decision before you’re ready, you’re more likely to go on half-formed impressions and emotional arguments than you are to stick with your own values, long-term priorities, and individual needs.
Of course there are some decisions that need to be made within certain time frames. We live in a world of deadlines, and we frequently must adjust our behavior to meet other peoples’ timetables (especially when we have a responsibility toward specific others, such as our employers or our family). Taking all the time we need to make any given decision is not an option many of us have available all the time.
This fact simply makes it more important than ever that we do take the time to make good, well-thought out decisions that are congruent with our values and priorities whenever we do have the opportunity to take our time and really consider our alternatives.
I have an acquaintance in the personal growth field whose latest shtick is that “leaders” make decisions quickly, often with limited information, and remain committed to correcting errors made in this process later rather than avoiding them in the first place. He sells this approach as part of a larger spiel he does about the characteristics of “leaders,” and what “real leadership looks like” (yes, I was thinking of him when I wrote the Facebook post about “leadership” earlier this week).
Look at our national leadership in Washington DC, a jurisdiction in which I am licensed as a psychologist, where I still have an office and an active consulting practice, and in which I practiced for years at the start of my career. Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or any other political affiliation: do you really think that we need MORE impulsive, emotional, half-baked decisions coming from our leaders?
A problem many people run into in their lives is that the direction their heart, instinct, or “gut” tells them to take seems to clash with the direction their intellect, analytical brain, or common sense seems to recommend. Instead of taking the time to sort through these conflicts, and use our magnificent, multifaceted brains in the complementary way those brains are designed to work, many people cave to the pressure of the moment and go with what “feels” the most right— usually, what their “gut” recommends. The problem being, our “guts” weren’t designed for decision-making— they were designed to save us from evolutionary threats via fear and promote reproduction via arousal. Any decision made exclusively from our “gut” will thus be tinged with fear and/or arousal…and will be an incomplete, imprecise use of our magnificent minds.
Decisions made in haste, in other words, tend to be poor decisions.
Is this what we want from our “leaders?”
We live in a world that induces an awful lot of fear and anxiety every day. These complicated emotions are often magnified by the echo chambers of social media, which tend to prioritize aspects of reality that induce the greatest emotional response from us— i.e., the stuff that is the most enraging, the most fear-inducing, the most stimulating.
We don’t need more decisions made in the haste of the moment, with limited information. We get enough of that already, on both the national level and in our individual lives. Most of us are unfortunately very good at making quick decisions with limited information, and those who would manipulate us know this fact very well.
What we need practice with, rather, is tolerating anxiety long enough to make good, considered decisions.
We need practice with resisting the pressure put on us to decide quickly among alternatives that we may not even realize are purposefully limited.
We need practice remembering that, in many transactions, we’re the ones with the power— even if a salesman is trying to force us into an impulsive decision based on emotion.
It’s not a sign of “weakness” to take your time making a decision. It’s true that delay and procrastination can sometimes turn into habits that impair our ability to meet our goals, but there’s a significant difference between procrastination and asserting your right to take your time to make an intelligent decision. Choosing to “sleep on” a decision is often the most intelligent thing to do when you’re unsure— giving yourself the time and space to really reflect on your priorities can make the difference between an impulsive decision that is harmful and an intelligent decision that works in the long run.
Don’t let manipulators pressure you into decisions you’re not ready to make. Remember that you’re the one with the power to decide what’s right for you— and you have the right and responsibility to make those decisions when you’re ready to do so intelligently.