Black or White? Gray Decision Making is Best

There is an overwhelming desire to make various issues or decisions out to be black or white. That is to say, we tend to think only in extremes.

  1. iPhone or Android
  2. Democrat or Republican
  3. Carbs or No Carbs

The reality is, almost always, that the best solution is somewhere in between, and that there is more than one correct answer. On top of that, what is “right” is often abstract, impossible to know, or is always moving…or, more often, it’s all three.

In our example above

  1. iPhone is great for some people, Android works better for others – there is no “best”
  2. Democrat or Republican – somewhere in the middle is probably the best option for most of us, but each individual has different needs
  3. Carbs or No Carbs – what about “fewer carbs” or “healthy amount of carbs”?


How to Know What is Right

Since there really is no right answer, then how are we to traverse life? Well, for starters, we can all acknowledge that there are a range of correct answers to nearly every issue. There may be a right answer for us individually, but what is right for you may not be right for everyone.


When I was shopping for a new smartphone many years ago, after my HTC Tilt 2 was giving out, I had an important decision: Android, or iPhone. I went with Android, because it gave me more freedom, and I like having more choice in what happens on my screen. I was verbally attacked by some individuals – I’m not kidding. This became such a personal decision for some people, that they would attack those who came to a different conclusion. The truth is, there are a number of factors that go into a cell phone purchase decision: Price, Carrier, screen size, flexibility, ease of use, cool factor, camera resolution, perceived quality of the manufacturer. I had a certain set of criteria that led me to a Droid X. These other individuals had a set of criteria that led them to an iPhone. Other have criteria that lead to Blackberry’s, or Windows Phones, or feature phones.


The point is, we are all different. We have different needs, but we have a tendency to believe that the way we think is the way others think. As such, we tend to see those who have different viewpoints as being “wrong”. This transcends cell phones, and this works for politics, religion, financial management, decisions at work, decisions at home, etc. I wonder how much we could learn if we focused on why people make decisions, instead of which decisions they make.


Over the next week, when you find yourself calling someone “stupid” or “moronic”, even if it’s only in your head, ask yourself why did they make that decision? Why did they do what they did? What were their motivations, and how can you learn from them? You’ll be amazed at how much you learn, and at how much more the world begins to make sense to you.