Emotional Decisions

Don’t let emotions screw up your decisions

Think about a time when you were weighing an important decision at work or at home. Such decisions are inherently complex, and no matter how much experience you have making them – working through the pros and cons of each choice can be overwhelming.

Your emotional reactions to these choices may help direct your attention and energy toward what you feel are the most important aspects of the decision. Yet intense emotions may lead you to make misguided or out-right disasters decisions.

Imagine, for instance, that you hit heavy traffic while driving home from work and are forced to miss dinner and your son’s basketball game. Frustrated and tired from work, you sit down on the couch only to be confronted with an important decision. Your daughter is asking to stay out late with her irresponsible boyfriend.

Even though the request is a separate issue and we all assume we have pushed our earlier frustration aside, Francesca Gino (Harvard Business Professor) has found that we are often unable to separate our emotions. His research emphasizes that emotions triggered by an event completely unrelated to a new situation often influence our thinking and decisions in that situation. In related research, Scott Wiltermuth of the University of Southern California, and Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University, found that anger triggered by something unrelated to the decision also affects how we evaluate the ideas of others.

They found that those who were induced to feel angry were less interested in evaluating others’ high-quality ideas. Anger appears to increase the appeal of criticizing others and their ideas. Our feelings can offer relevant and important feedback about the decision, but irrelevant emotions triggered by a completely unrelated event can take us off track.

The next time you get slammed with an unexpected workload or have an argument at work, consider how your emotional reactions could linger as you enter into the important task of parenting. Fortunately, we often can choose when to perform each of the many tasks required of us at home. This should allow us to evaluate ideas from others when we believe we are most capable of doing so objectively and thoroughly.