A Look at Different Decision-Making Styles
There are few decisions as complex and emotional as deciding to divorce. At the root of many divorces is the couple’s different communication approaches, which are often directly related to their decision-making style.[i] If the parties had a difficult time communicating during the marriage, it is logical they will have a difficult time communicating while dissolving their marriage. “When making a decision, we form opinions and choose actions via mental processes which are influenced by biases, reason, emotions, and memories.”[ii]
In the case of divorce, for some, they can only reach decisions by taking their time to analyze and discuss every angle, while for others the decision comes easily based on nothing but a gut feeling. For example, one spouse may want to rehash a disagreement over and over while the other person simply can’t talk about it anymore, leading the first to desire extended time to discuss and contemplate, while the second has shut down.
Four different types of decision-making styles have been identified:
Directive, characterized as a rapid decision-maker who prefers simple structure clear solutions. Their weakness tends to be a lack of interest in receiving advice and not wanting to consider options.
Analytical, characterized as a decision-maker who is comfortable with ambiguity and has the skills to carefully analyze options before making a decision. Their weakness tends to be not making timely decisions.
Conceptual, characterized as being comfortable with ambiguity, these decision-makers are able to recognize underlying problems and apply creative problem-solving skills to consider bigger holistic options. Their weakness tends to be committing to a decision.
Behavioral, characterized as ‘people-pleasers’, these decision-makers seek input, advice, and buy-in from others. Their weakness tends to be not trusting their own decision.
The four styles presented illustrate the need for each person to process information in a way that is comfortable for them. In mediation, it is often infuriating to one side when the other side cannot agree hours into the process. This scenario undoubtedly leads to frustration for the party who is ready to finalize the terms.
It is therefore important to remind your clients that each person is unique in their decision-making style. They can reflect on their partner’s style during the marriage and dismiss expectations that these big decisions about their future will be made in a different manner. Just as the final settlement will be unique to every couple, the way each person arrives at the final settlement is also unique to each individual. By staying focused on the goal and allowing each person to operate in their own (managed) timeframe and comfort level, parties will generally reach a resolution in mediation.[i] www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-without-anxiety/201704/the-divorce-decision [ii] www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/decision-making