I am a decisive person. I can make up my mind in an instant, and if it turns out that my choice was hasty or wrong, oh well. That’s why I’ve never played chess.  I mean, who has the patience to ponder strategy three or four moves ahead? 

And then somewhere along my journey as a mediator, I had an epiphany, a lightbulb moment.  With thanks to my clients who teach me every single day, I realized that there was another, significant answer to every question I posed during the mediation process.  Can you guess what it is?  (Hint:  it’s in the title to this blog.)

Offering or asking for time to think can be a deal-changer.  It immediately takes the pressure off, so nobody is forced to commit to something before they’re ready.  Imagine you’re at the Toyota dealership, test-driving a new Camry.  The salesperson is practically chomping at the bit to make a deal, but you want to take another look at the Honda Accord.  What do you suppose might happen if you told them you wanted to take some time to think about it?  

While some people might be frustrated at your request to think about it, who cares?  If your hesitancy affects someone else’s sales quota, is that really your problem?  

On the other hand, if you’re truly paralyzed when making an important decision, your delay can become problematic.  What if it’s almost Thanksgiving and you can’t decide whether you want to take the kids to visit their grandparents in Phoenix, or whether your ex can take them to Disneyland.  Leaving others in limbo while you take your time to decide isn’t exactly considerate, especially when children are involved.  

The best thing you can do, when asking for thinking time, is to convey how long you’ll need.  Telling the Toyota people that you’ll get back to them in two days is reasonable.  Promising your ex that you’ll decide in a week is appropriate.  Then, be true to your word.  Establishing a deadline is a win-win.  Obviously, it buys you some time, and it also forces you to move forward. 

I respect those of you who take more time to think than I do.  In fact, I sort of envy you.  That is, unless you are one of those second-guessers who, after (finally) deciding, continue to have the “what if” conversation with yourself.   Does that really work?  Do you regret buying the Toyota instead of the Honda?  Do you continue to beat yourself up because you might have gotten a better deal?

Once the alarm clock has buzzed you out of thinking time and into decision time, the next deadline is coping time.  And that deadline only expires when you tell yourself, “next time . . .”  

So, if you’re someone who likes lists, here’s mine:

  1. Thinking time
  2. Decision time
  3. Coping time
  4. Next time

Are you a thinker or an over-thinker?  Are you paralyzed when making decisions?  Do you punish yourself afterwards?  And can you guess the title of next week’s blog?