The Best Headspace for Making Decisions – anger is not the best way to approach a big choice but neither is happiness
This article from American literary and cultural commentary magazine “The Atlantic” discusses the age old topic of the head versus the heart when it comes to healthy decision making. The author, Award winning writer and Editor Olga Khazan uses research findings to highlight the danger of allowing emotions to steer decision making. Khazan cites findings which shows that an angry person for example is more likely to take risks while minimising the dangers involved. Angry people have also been found to rely more heavily on stereotypes and react impulsively in what Khazan describes as a “trigger happy response.” The danger with allowing anger to be the driving force behind important decisions is that often, such decisions require more complex thought patterns, which anger restricts, resulting in more simplistic styles of thinking.
Khazan goes on to describe research which shows that happiness can have a similarly restrictive influence over decision making, in the absence of other sources of information. These types of studies have shown that when presented with a persuasive message, people who rely solely on their positive mood for information tend to allow simple factors such as message length, likeability and attractiveness of the source to exert an undue influence over their decision. This is likely to result in a failure to take into account more complex factors such as quality of the content.
Khazan concludes with the thought that there does not appear to be any mood which can put someone in a desirable state of mind to make a balanced decision and suggests that the solution may lie in strategies which restrict the amount of influence that your emotions can have on your thinking.
If we view this discussion from an Emotional Intelligence perspective, this is only half the story, as this advice is suitable for someone who tends to have a more intuitive style of thinking. An intuitive style utilises a gut response which heavily favours emotional input (as discussed in this article) whereas, people who tend to have a more analytical style of thinking often make decisions based largely on logic and reason. Relying solely on an analytical style also has its disadvantages as it can take a long time to arrive at a decision and omits potentially useful information derived from one’s feelings.
While successful use of each style is often context dependent, an Emotional Intelligence perspective suggests that it is helpful to practice using a balanced style of thinking so as to maximise the advantages of both approaches.