You and I go to meetings where the decision-making can seem unbelievably confusing.
And how about those decisions where we just can't seem to arrive at a peaceful conclusion?
After giving it some thought and observation, I think I've got a way to look at this that I hope will be helpful.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the two this way:
Confused: being disordered or mixed up.
The result is not being able to think at your usual speed.
Conflicted: (a feeling of) mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands.
The result is inaction, over-reaction, or both.
Yes, both are possible. We can react strongly to the conversation around the decision, but still not be able to make the decision.
Note: Each of these phenomena apply to individual as well as group decisions. Those self-conversations in our heads can get every bit as frustrating as the ones across the table!
What To Do?
1.Stop and diagnose.
(Please remember Steve's rule for everything: "Prognosis Without Diagnosis is Malpractice").
2. If the issue is Confusion, ask:
a. Are we clear on the goal of the decision?
b. Do we have the right information, and all of it--or as much as possible?
c. Do we have the information organized in an understandable way?
d. Does everyone involved have the same understanding of the goal and the information?
e. Do we have a structured process for making our decision?
When you are clear that all of the above have been satisfied, then you're probably dealing with Conflicted-ness. (My spell checker is definitely conflicted trying to deal with that one).
3. If the issue is being Conflicted, then you'll probably experience silence or overt argument. You're seeing the result of deeper issues--perhaps even at the personal values level--that need to be resolved. Whether silence or argument:
a. Talk straight immediately. Say, "We've got a good understanding and a good process. But there's something else stopping us.What's really getting in the way?
b. Don't speak again until someone offers a comment. After the first person responds, don't evaluate the remark. Thank them. Allow for everyone to respond without evaluation.
Principle: Until the real issue is named out loud, it will silently undermine the decision process. Once it's named and acknowledged, it is neutralized. When it comes out into the light of day, it can be seen clearly for what it is and discussed accurately. This is the most difficult thing for groups (and individuals) to deal with. Why? There's always the fear that "my issue" will be discounted, misunderstood, or seen as a blockage to "good teamwork."
Yet the person who offers the first bit of truth is the one who leads the group to a more satisfying decision.
c. After 'b', you will know exactly how to proceed because the substantive issues will be out there in clear view. You'll see both an increase in both energy and collaboration.
Note: Organizations are usually pretty good at organizing. And even those of us with a more casual approach to life still have our own method of organizing it.
If you are really stuck on a decision, go with "Conflicted." In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and say that more often than not, we aren't confused. We usually know the right thing or best thing to do. It's facing up to our conflicting wants and needs that get in the way. "Having it all," whether in a business meeting or personal life, is a decision criterion that can only lead to internal conflict.
Thought for Today: Clear priorities offer the soundest foundation to decision making.