Making decisions, even if they’re not very big ones, can be intimidating. Realizing that you’ve made a decision that’s wrong, or even one that’s not the very best, is not a great feeling. To avoid this, many people ask for someone else’s opinion and seeking consensus before making a decision.
Asking for advice is a natural impulse that can be very helpful. Asking advice from trusted people can:
- Provide insight from their first-hand experiences with that situation
- Reveal a different angle from which to assess a problem
- Build your relationship with them
- Boost your confidence as they encourage you
However, asking advice can easily turn into seeking consensus, an easy way of avoiding the difficult process of thinking of solutions and making final decisions for yourself.
What’s Wrong With Seeking Consensus?
A consensus is a general agreement and occurs when most or all of a group of people believe the same thing about something. When you seek consensus in order to make the best decision, you’re looking for a decision that a majority agree on, and using the majority opinion as for the guiding point for your own decision.
Consensus can be useful. Yelp is an example of consensus, and in many cases, a place with a high average rating over the course of hundreds of reviews is likely to be high quality, while a place with a low star score after hundreds of reviews is not.
But there are problems with this approach.
When you depend on other people for your opinions and use the consensus even when your own thoughts would otherwise be valid, you can:
- Form an unhealthy dependence on other people
- Have difficulty forming your own identity
- Take a much longer time than necessary to make decisions
- Avoid blame or critical thought if the consensus turns out to be the incorrect choice
- Put too much faith in solutions and opinions that can be highly subjective or irrelevant to you
That last one is especially important. For example, imagine you are seeking consensus on something like where to go for lunch. There are 5 votes for Italian and zero votes for Thai. But there is a problem – you hate Italian food. So the consensus was still the wrong decision for you.
How to Stop Depending on Consensus
People seek consensus for a variety of reasons, from low self-esteem to unclear sense of self to anxiety in different parts of the decision-making process. Seeking consensus is their way of taking the decision out of their hands and spreading it out to others, hoping that the result is an answer that is more likely to be the right one without putting in the critical thought necessary to come up with it yourself.
But when people don’t trust themselves to make decisions continue to use consensus as a problem-solving method, they lose opportunities to build confidence in themselves by making decisions on their own. They may also make choices that are not right for them, or ignore their own knowledge and input while taking advice from those that are not necessarily as prepared to give a knowledgeable answer.
Contact Long Island Psychology To Learn How To Make Decisions Yourself
If you feel like you can’t stop relying on others’ opinions to make choices or feel frozen when you’re asked what you think about something, talking with a therapist can help. Therapy sessions can provide a safe, constructive space where you can practice useful thought processes and problem-solving skills so that you can be confident in your decisions and ability to face challenges yourself.
Contact Long Island Psychology today to make an appointment or to request further information about our services.