Doubts and Indecision

David L. Barnhart, EdD

David Barnhart, EdD

What evidence supports and refutes a position? This technique bears similarity to a pros and cons list, but is qualitatively different because it seeks evidence. Here is how it works. Start by writing out a claim such as:

“I should marry John or Mary”

“I should take the job offer from ABC Company”

“I should stay married to Bill/Jane”

Then, underneath the claim draw a vertical line down the middle of the page. On one side write “Evidence that supports the claim.” On the other side write “Evidence that refutes the claim.” Next look for evidence that supports and refutes the claim and enter that evidence under its respective side. Here is an example:

I should marry John.
Evidence that supports the claim Evidence that refutes the claim
  • John’s belief in marriage vows match with mine
  • I love John and John says he loves me and treats me with respect
  • John and I both want children
  • John and I like to party
  • John and I like outside activities
  • John is ethical in business



  • John has been divorced three times
  • John travels between one and two times per month for a week at a time
  • John has a twelve-year-old son with whom he shares custody with his former wife
  • John and his former wife argue about co-parenting
  • John was promoted to a well-paying position three months ago
  • John’s religious faith is ambiguous


Do you need to gather more evidence? Past behavior remains one of the best predictors of future behavior. Does this person show interest in the wellbeing of others (give to the needy, give time to important social causes or social justice)? How do they act in traffic, around relatives, in financial dealings (impulse control)? Are they financially stable? Do you need to know more about John’s past? With trust as an issue, there are at least five questions to be answered:

  1. Is the person honest?
  2. Is the person transparent (an open book, everything is accessible)?
  3. Is the person ethical in transactions and interactions?
  4. Is the person accountable?
  5. Does he or she have your back (loyal to you in family disputes)?

This is an exercise that requires reflection. Your feelings (emotional) about the weight of evidence on either side should be considered. Emotional reactions carry weight because these feelings are created based on your reason, experience, beliefs, values, and unconscious biases. If the individual pieces of evidence evoke an emotional response, can you determine what the feeling is (name the emotion) and write out your thoughts about your feelings?

Big decisions deserve due consideration. Taking the time to get your thoughts and feelings written down will help you “see” how you are thinking and feeling in a more comprehensive way. Otherwise, thoughts about big issues tend to continue to run around in our minds and our emotions are swayed by the currently present thought rather than taking the whole into consideration.

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