Are emotions wreaking havoc with your decisions?

A recent event got me thinking about the way I go about making decisions.

My dearest companion and a very beautiful accessory, my smartphone hit the ground and the impact left a dent and a small crack on the screen. No damage was done to the software or its functioning. It was working as smooth as butter. But the damn, crack was slowly becoming an eyesore for me and eating me from inside. I ‘didn’t like it’. The underline is to highlight how our feelings are at the core of all our so-called carefully thought out decisions; or so we believe.

Your likes or dislikes are the emotions which trigger the next few steps which strengthen our logic or reasoning towards making a decision. In my case, the ‘feeling’ that I didn’t like it, directed all my attention towards the disadvantages of having a smartphone with a cracked screen. I started to build a story around why I shouldn’t be moving around with a cracked screen and listed all the possible reasons for change. Inspite of my best effort to steer clear of buying a new one by countering it with equally powerful reasons to stay was of no avail. I kept getting drawn towards getting a new one. Buy I did! Drilled a hole in my pocket as well.

Hold on…. It didn’t stop there. Once I got the brand new beauty, I ‘felt good’ and ‘I liked it’. I started to now build up a new story about how it was good to have this new phone and the advantages or the benefits of trade-off.

This is what got me to think on our decision making process and how our feelings deeply influence our decision making without even we realizing it.

We tend to identify and look at the advantages or the positives of everything we like and feel good about and direct our attention to the disadvantages for that we do not like.

The scary part is that all the while we are imagining that we are making conscious and informed decisions. We are failing to see how our emotions are shaping the decision making process. As Paul Slovic talked about the affect heuristic, in which people make judgments and decisions by consulting their emotions: Do I like it?, Do I hate it? How strongly do I feel about it? In many domains of life Slovic said that people form opinions and make choices that directly express their feelings and their basic tendency to approach or avoid, often without knowing that they are doing so.

We make so many decisions in our life; about marriage, hiring a new employee, moving to a new house or city, buying things, networking and examiners who award marks to students…. If you reflect, most of the decisions are based on the ‘feel’ good or bad factor to start with. It can at times have disastrous consequences and cost you dearly in terms of health, wealth, relationships and happiness.

How do we ensure that emotions don’t wreak havoc with our decisions? I leave this for some other time.

At this moment how are you feeling? 😊

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