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Using Emotions To Make Better Decisions

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Emotions Tell Us More Than We Think

Emotions are an inherent part of who we are. A necessary part of the decision making process wether we like it or not. I believe a lot of us are weary of letting emotions affect our decisions because so often, our bad decisions were decided by a negative response to an emotion we were feeling at the time.

When we’re faced with difficult and complex decisions, we typically experience difficult and complex emotions. Many of us don’t want to sit with these uncomfortable feelings, so we try to get the decision making over with. But this often leads to poor decisions. We may not truly solve the problem at hand, and we often end up feeling worse. It’s an unproductive feedback loop that bookends our decisions with negative feelings.

Cheryl Strauss Einhorn

As Cheryl states, a recent Keynotes speaker at Cornell University, big decisions often times come with big emotion. It could be happiness, anxiety, worry, or any number of things. But understanding where these emotions come from will help us to tap into the root of it and better enable us to make emotionally mature decisions and not leave us feeling anxious about wether we made the right choice after.

Understanding The Problem We’re Trying To Solve

The first step to making better decisions using our emotions is to really understand the problem we are trying to solve. Let’s say for example you are in the position to promote one of two employees. One employee is a great worker who is also a really good friend of yours. The other is another great employee but you don’t know them all that well and they don’t appear to interact much with the team. It’s important that we really dig deep to truly understand why we may feel a certain and what the true question we’re trying to answer is. With this particular situation, it can be easy to think that the question is “Should I promote my friend or the other guy?” but really, the question is “Who would be best to promote to this role?”.

Navigating Your Emotions

Now that the question is clear we are able to focus on what dominant emotion we might be feeling in this situation. Is it fear? Anxiety? Stress? This is probably the most important part of the whole process as this emotion is what usually leads us to make poor choices so that we can move on from the uncomfortableness of the situation. It is this uncomfortableness that we need to accept in order to make better decisions. This uncomfortableness lets us know that there is a big decision ahead of us. We need to take the time and make the right one as to avoid the endless cycle of uncomfortable feeling, poor choice, uncomfortable feeling.

Once we can pinpoint the dominant emotion, we can begin to understand why we feel it. Understanding it will help us navigate the situation and ultimately help us make the a decision we can be confident in. When we can get to the root of the uncomfortableness. Let’s say for the sake of this example, the dominant emotion was fear. Knowing that puts a metaphorical face to our problem. We can see it and understand what it is.

What Is The Outcome?

Now that we understand the heart of the problem, making a decision isn’t as daunting. The question now becomes, emotionally, what do we want to get out of this decision? Wanting to execute a decision with a positive emotional outcome keeps us from entering the endless cycle of negative emotion driving a bad thought process, leading to poor emotional outcomes and bad decisions.