3 Decision Making Styles & When to Use Them

Written by Stephen Scoggins

September 26, 2020

decision making styles

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of good decision-making. You make as many as 35,000 decisions every day. That’s why we need to get better at understanding the motivations behind our decisions. If we understand how we think, we can understand how our decision making styles are moving us forward or holding us back.

The Different Decision Making Styles

In the broadest sense, I believe that there are 3 mindsets behind every decision. Your preferred decision making styles will say a lot about you and reveal your best and worst decision-making habits immediately. Our decision making style will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Personal
  • Practical
  • Analytical

Personal Decision Making

This style is mostly concerned with how decisions make people feel. It can be focused on the self, others, or both. Empathetic, sensitive, and artistic people will identify the most with this style. Personal decision-makers also tend to be the most idealistic and intrinsically motivated.

The strengths of this decision making style are compassion and concern for the common good. People who operate from this framework tend to be principled, and they’re more likely to have a sense of responsibility for how their actions affect others. Personal decision making styles are also concerned about ethics, and they’re helpful in relationships because they help us remember that connecting with others is often more important than being right.

Where this style can lead people astray is when they operate from flawed principles. Ideas have consequences, and when people operate out of a corrupt sense of morality, the results can be devastating. Worse, personal decision making can become narcissistic if it becomes all about making the decision maker feel good. One’s mindset can even become so warped that their selfishness starts to seem morally justified. When this happens, anyone who challenges it becomes not only unpleasant but immoral and deserving of punishment.

Practical Decision Making

Practical decision making styles always focus on results and tangible metrics. It reduces every debate to its simplest possible from. To practical decision makers, something either works or doesn’t work. Outcomes are all that matter.

The practical style is important because it brings clarity and focus. Without it, not much gets done. It’s also important in that it checks the personal and analytical styles with an important question: so what? Ironically, the practical decision making style is sometimes necessary to expose flawed principles and logic because it reveals when they stop being useful to people.

The problem with this framework is that it can descend into a worldview in which the ends justifies the means. Total pragmatism can make a person callous to his or her fellow man and cynical about the things that make life meaningful, such as virtue, beauty, justice, and even the intrinsic worth of human beings. Without accountability from the other styles, decisions can become short-sighted, dishonest, and morally bankrupt.

Analytical Decision Making

When someone is operating from an analytical decision making style, they are primarily concerned with accuracy. They want to know what is true and see learning as a desirable outcome in and of itself.

Without analytical decision making styles, the world would be very chaotic. Confusion and disorder would abound. Good intentions and focus on results are not enough. Without proper measurements and attention-to-detail, certain decisions can lead to catastrophic results.

Overuse of analytical decision styles can lead to inactivity. Analysis by paralysis is a real problem, and sometimes making a bad decision is better than making none at all. It also doesn’t factor the fact that it’s usually impossible to have all of the information when making decisions.

When to Use Each Type

It would be impossible for me to tell you in a blog post which type you should be using at any given time. That said, there are some indicators that can help you when you’re evaluating your options.


  • Where the decision will clearly affect other people
  • When the results you’re looking for are difficult to quantify
  • If there isn’t a lot of information to go on
  • When a relationship is more important than any outcome
  • If no one has brought up ethics in a while


  • If there is no defined goal
  • When things start to get especially complicated
  • Where there is disorganization
  • When time is of the essence and the details can be sorted out later
  • If there’s a lot of chatter but no one is doing anything


  • When the decision is large and can’t be easily reversed
  • If there are a lot of assumptions being made
  • When no one has asked a question in a while
  • If a question is asked and no one knows the answer

Understand Yourself, and You Will Make Better Decisions

One of our goals at the Journey Principles Institute is to help people grow in self-awareness. We believe that when we know ourselves, we can make better decisions for our careers, relationships, physical health, and emotional wellbeing.

Right now we’re giving away a free E Book called Understanding What Drives You, which we wrote to give you the self-knowledge you need to be successful. Click the button below to get your copy!

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