Some decisions require a lot of thought — weighing pros and cons, and trying to reach the best possible outcome. But some people are indecisive about pretty much everything, big or small. Whether you’re dealing with an ambivalent person, or you are an ambivalent person yourself, you know that it can be annoying.
But according to a new study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, ambivalence might not be the negative trait we think it is. In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, professor emerita of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, sheds some additional light on the potential benefits of ambivalence, as well as a downside. Here’s what to know.
How to use your ambivalence to your advantage
Basically, it comes down to the fact that ambivalent people take the time to consider the various sides to an issue, which can result in them making more informed decisions. Whitbourne uses the example of going to a restaurant with a certain family member who always takes forever to order, and gets on everyone’s nerves (including the servers). Here’s her take:
Balancing such factors as healthy choices, price, and method of preparation may ultimately lead to a better selection than a rush to get whatever is first on the list of possible entrees. How many times have you been disappointed when your own main dish arrives, and you realise you made the wrong choice by being too hasty?
The downside of ambivalence
Other than things taking a long time, there is another negative aspect of ambivalence, Whitbourne, says:
A quick decision may be the mental equivalent of pulling the bandage off a wound without hesitating. It may be painful, but you get it over with. For the chronically ambivalent, the inability to resolve conflict can lead to tension, worry, and an overall negative state of mind.
So keep that in mind the next time you’re in a situation involving someone who is particularly indecisive (including yourself).