Reversing an Emotional Decision

By | July 13, 2010

Have you ever convinced yourself of a decision based on an initial reaction?  Of course you have, everyone has.  The more important question is: Have you ever reversed one of these decisions later when reality turned out different than you initially experienced?

This is crucial to having good judgment.  Sometimes the initial WOW or YUCK factor weighs heavily on our minds.  We convince ourselves that this feeling is true and enhance or diminish new evidence as it supports or denies our initial hypothesis.  In other words, we make sure our initial feeling is true by interpreting the evidence with a slant.

A related psychological phenomenon is called Cognitive Dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing them.[2] It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Put simply:  People don’t want to think they are wrong about something.  It’s uncomfortable to think you have poor judgment.

So if you find yourself in this situation, where you initially thought YUCK or WOW and you aren’t so sure anymore, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Put on your emotionless robot hat.
  2. Write a summary of of the thing in an objective fashion with pros and cons.  Really stretch to find the opposite of your own hypothesis.
  3. List as many options as possible.  Be very critical of each.
  4. Don’t make a new conclusion. Listen to others reactions to your summary.
  5. Be willing to eat the baby.

In other words, Do your homework.

Emotional decisions are very often the best decisions, but that doesn’t excuse you from doing homework.  You have to really think about what you are doing and analyze the situation.  Don’t ignore options that seem bad at first.  Give them a little space to breathe.

Even if you end up with the same decision, you will be better off with the additional research.  Being buttoned up means knowing all the details, even of the road not traveled.  This makes you a stronger employee and gives your organization a better chance at success.

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