THE BLOG
08/27/2014 11:50 am ET Updated Oct 27, 2014

7 Decision Making Styles

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

What is your style? I don't mean the way you dress, I'm thinking deeper. Specifically, what style drives your choices? Every day, we are confronted with decisions that determine who we will become and what we will be known for in culture. Most decisions simply come down to two simple words: yes or no. But what are the drivers and how do you make choices?

Psychologists, sociologists and other scientists continually seek to understand and explain the similarities and differences in people. Many different social, physiological and psychological factors shape our decision making. There are sociocultural components (external, uncontrollable) and emotional (internal) forces that affect our perception and our decision making. However, many researchers agree that from an early age we begin to see the world through an individualized lens. Though each of us makes up our own combination of ways to think, we also tend to fall into general categories for decision making.

One component is based on our personality and preferred way of thinking. If we like to work a process or prefer to take action, our decision-making style will reflect that tendency. Another component centers on what we value in life: community, God, risk, predictability, courage, process, stories, and so on. For instance, if we value predictability, we will naturally lean toward making decisions that have a long-term chance of success. If we value risk, on the other hand, our decisions lean toward opportunities for adventure or big payoff.

For the last three years, I have been working closely with over 100 social entrepreneurs and walked through significant personal and business decisions. Through this mentoring, a few styles emerged as the natural paths by which most people make decisions. This focused group of leaders has been the driving research in what we have defined as the seven decision making styles.

As you consider each of the styles, one or two styles ought to jump out as your primary ways of decision making based on your past experiences. I don't believe one way is the correct way to make decisions. They are simply different paths toward an end goal. Each style has strengths and weaknesses.

The seven unique decision making styles are: Gut Reaction, List Checking, Story Living, Data Driven, Spiritually Guided, Collective Reasoning and Passive Undecided. I encourage you to read each of the descriptions. You will learn more about yourself and those around you. You may begin to see your team members, coworkers, children, partners or spouse in a new light and appreciate the unique contributions they can bring to your path.

1. Collective Reasoning
They naturally gather a group of opinions before making any decision. Group consensus and buy-in from everyone affected guide each step forward.

2. Data Driven
They formulate decisions based on hard data, especially numbers. They take time to research, organize and consider before moving forward.

3. Gut Reaction
These decisions-makers rely on feelings to make quick decisions. They don't mind taking risks and move confidently forward through life.

4. List Approach
They only move forward after methodically considering the pros and cons of any decision. Their researched lists give them confidence and a pre-planned path for the future.

5. Spiritually Guided
They make decisions by staying close to God and listening carefully for a clear voice of direction. Prayer, solitude and retreat are their key methods of deciding.

6. Story Living
They make decisions based on the story they will get to tell afterwards. They want to go new places, try impossible things, and tell the world.

7. Passive Undecided
They are happy to move forward with almost any decision as long as they do not have to decide. They avoid conflict and decide by following others.

As you read, you may have identified yourself as a blend of two or three different styles. I am not advocating one style as right and another as wrong. Each style is unique to who you are and how you feel confident navigating everyday life.

What I have discovered over time is that the wisest choices are often cross-referenced through a few styles. This tends to broaden our perspectives and offer a stronger basis by which to move forward in decisions.

As you process your unique decision-making style, I recommend talking through it together with your community or team. Not only is it helpful to understand each person's preferred decision-making style, but our community can often help us better understand ourselves better. We can also work together to encourage each other's decisions and mitigate the potential weaknesses of one style. Inviting other styles into your decision-making process will always make your choices better.

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Jeff Shinabarger is a social entrepreneur and author of two books: Yes or No and More or Less. Jeff is the founder of Plywood People and has a vision to make Atlanta a center for social innovation and has personally engaged in over 100 start-ups solving problems. His work has been featured by CNN, USA Weekend, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Huffington Post, Christianity Today, Coca-Cola, Relevant Magazine and Chicago Sun Times. He is the co-founder of Q and creatively led Catalyst for 8 years. Jeff and his wife, Andre, live in East Atlanta Village and have two children.