By Colm Foster – Senior Associate, Ireland
Spock: “It’s just not logical, Captain.”
Kirk: “As humans…we can’t just ignore our feelings, Mr.Spock.”
This exchange between Kirk and Spock illustrates an age-old dilemma. Spock believes that emotions and feelings are always to be mistrusted and avoided in pursuit of the most rational, logical and sensible decision. Not being Vulcan we know how extremely difficult it is to even attempt to keep emotions out of our decision-making.
Here is a different view of the hierarchy of mind and emotion (emotional intelligence):
“The intuitive (emotional)* mind is a gift from God and the rational mind, its servant. We have created a society that reveres the servant and has forgotten the master.”
– Albert Einstein
Emotions trigger gut-reaction decisions made without thinking. (This type of decision is a crap-shoot with results that could be favourable or otherwise.) Emotions also bring leaps of inspiration, that seemingly flash out of nowhere. (These also are no guaranty of successful outcomes.)
OK. Now, recognizing that emotions impact our decisions, how can we take advantage of this knowledge? Recent research identifies areas in which understanding and managing our emotions can facilitate optimal decision-making.
1. The impact of positive mood
In a positive mood we open ourselves to our environment and are freer to explore situations and uncover solutions. One respected concept: the “broaden and build” theory states that positive moods expand our thinking; help generate new ideas; and allow us to consider alternative possibilities. Think about the difference maintaining a positive mood could make in a brainstorming session.
2. The impact of negative mood
Although negative emotions are less obviously helpful, they can also play a crucial role in decision-making. Research shows that negative moods induce more critical thinking, provide clearer focus; closer examination of detail, and a more thorough search for errors. Thus a negative mood can be useful for work on reviewing contracts, or conducting risk analysis planning, for two examples.
3. The impact of emotion-rich messages
Psychologist John Mayer shows that emotion-laden messages form memories that are recalled more clearly and over longer periods than those not containing emotional impact. If you want your messages to be engaging, compelling and memorable, ensure that they connect with your audience on an emotional and rational level.
Stephen Stefano, former CEO of Smith Kline Beecham, suggests that you must connect emotionally before the logic of your message can even be heard. “People do not care about how much you know, until they know about how much you care.”
4. The impact of emotional suppression
In trying to ignore our emotions in the attempt to make purely logical decisions we lose the emotional connection to our information content. Furthermore, in suppressing our emotions we divert mental resources which are needed for the decision at hand. This is a “double-whammy”. We not only miss out on the impact our feelings can provide; we end up with less mental horsepower available for processing the logic needed to resolve the situation.
Your mood has real and measurable effects on your decision-making. You need to understand and use mood to optimise your decisions and minimize the stress caused by ignoring or attempting to suppress the inherent wisdom and power of your feelings. Learn more about assessing and developing Emotional Intelligence here.