Decisions. We make them all the time. Seriously, ALL-THE-TIME. Can we be better at them? Is it something we can work on? Do we really want to? And are effective decisions always rational?
Sure, we are rational beings, and we like to brag about it! But actually, there is no rationally process without emotional information processing. For example, we found in our research that 'the feeling of fear', during changes, is the precursor of stress and anxiety, and these affect our ability to effective decision-making. Therefore, the way we manage and perform in stressful situations is not only what helps us to remain fully functioning individuals but also ensures our overall good mental health and well-being. Remember, the stress and mental health of employees is more than merely a personal issue. It can negatively affect the company and society as a whole. From decreased job performance and productivity to a breakdown in daily functions, accidents, errors, absenteeism and presenteeism, health care and welfare costs, – [see our article How Is Stress Working Out For You].
Interestingly enough, our intelligence does not disdain human emotions, in fact, an adult's optimal development is influenced by the competencies of emotional awareness, expression and experience.
Decision-making is a human cognitive process, yet heavily impacted by emotions. Emotions often regarded as irrational are, in fact, part of the mechanism of reasoning and inform even our most logical decisions. For instance, research has shown that emotions have a great influence on multiple cognitive processes such as attention, perception, memory encoding (encoding, storage and retrieval of information), and associative learning. At believe-IN, what seems irrational is not to acknowledge emotions as a source of information in decision-making processes. We do, have a preference for the Neuroscience-based cognitive theories of emotion.
Think through Antonio Damasio’s paradigm “we are not thinking machines that feel; we are feeling machines that think”, as we cannot stop ourselves from ‘feeling’. However, we can certainly choose how to respond to how we feel, how to express emotions and whether or not we let them take over. Allowing ourselves to react without putting thought and time into finding a reasonable response, based on the emotional information we have just received, is what we point out as ‘irrational’.
Emotions not only influence our cognition but also regulate our social encounters and affect our perception and decision-making. For instance, Zaltman’s (2016) study showed that 95% of our cognition happens in our emotional brain. Furthermore, Damasio’s ground-breaking study found that when humans had damaged the area of their brain where emotions are generated and processed, despite still being able to use logic and function normally, individuals void of emotion seriously struggled to make any decisions, even simple ones like what to eat for lunch.
So, what is effective decision-making?
As human beings, we are always facing choices. Daniel Kahneman’s dual-process model of System 1 and System 2 claims we constantly resort to one of two decision-making systems. The first one is based on unconscious emotion, which helps us deal with the fast, instinctive, automatic and everyday decisions; and the second one depends on conscious thinking to make more complex decisions that need to be reliable, and naturally take up more time. Meaning that some of your decisions will be so mundane you will make them without giving them much thought, but more challenging decisions demand more consideration and this requires a calculated process based on rational logic.
Let us give you two examples. Whenever you go buy yoghurts, you will probably make use of System 1. There's little risk and you probably have a 'feeling' for what flavour you would like to eat later on. Reversely, when contemplating the possibility to buy a house or a car, or changing careers, you will make use of System 2. The risk and commitment to the decision are higher, so you must gather information to make an informed one - effective decision-making! As a side note, hopefully, you are not using system 1 to make crucial decisions. Are you?
By definition, "Decision-making involves the selection of a course of action from among two or more possible alternatives in order to arrive at a solution for a given problem" (Trewatha & Newport). Decisions require a comprehensive consideration of all possible aspects of a problem, as well as the logical process and emotional factors involved to arrive at the most optimal and beneficial decision. This process is conscious, effortful and controllable, but is nevertheless influenced by emotions.
The ‘7-rational steps model’ for decision-making (see figure below) is the most well-known, and if you follow the system, it will lead to a conclusion. That is, every decision-making process produces a final choice, which may or may not prompt action.
Decision-making is regarded as a cognitive process! Although postulates significant subjectivity throughout the process. That is, the act of "identifying" and "choosing " between "alternatives" is exclusively based on the personal values, preferences, self-awareness, self-knowledge, ethics and beliefs system of the decision-maker.
Otherwise, let us explore complex decision-making. When you’re making a decision that involves complex issues like the ones below, you need to engage your best problem-solving techniques and decision-making skills. However, your personal characteristics determine how you deal with complex decision-making. For instance, how you deal with:
Uncertainty – Many of the facts and variables of the problem may be unknown, yet you will still need to make a decision. (Think of how comfortable you are with uncertainty)
Complexity – There can be many interrelated factors to consider. Do you list them and make sure you prepare the best approach? (Consider writing them down or use a computer file/software, as “mental notes” tend to be less organised and trustworthy)
High-risk consequences – The impact of the decision may be significant to yourself, others or the company. (No decision pleases everyone and someone might not get what they want, but remember the alternative or even the consequences of making no decision)
Alternatives – There may be various alternatives, each with its own set of uncertainties and consequences. (Try thinking about the practical consequences. Are they life-threatening, are they about annoying or killing someone’s project, will you need to sacrifice yourself and your dreams?)
Interpersonal issues – You can try to predict how different people will react, whether it is a manager, co-workers or your own family (Think about how they might react when they have already said ‘no’ but you really want a ‘yes’)
If you reflected on these, you can visualise the importance of personal characteristics (also personal development stage) and imagine the array of emotions aroused by the discomforts of dealing with certain aspects of complex decision-making. Indeed, who you are and what you know, both about the decision-making process and your emotional management skills, are crucial.
The benefits of effective decision-making?
It pays off to develop strong self-awareness and use a robust structured process to improve the quality of your decisions and consistently achieve great results. That is the method by which we support our clients in making effective decisions. In change processes, high levels of stress and complexities tend to flood our emotional brain and affect our cognitive functions, degenerating effective decision-making. It is vital that you regain control, particularly in stressful situations. Extra professional help in supported decision-making during changes and transitions ensures you get more covered, understand when under the influence of emotions that prevents clear thinking, reasoning, and increases optimal decisions. Moreover, it reduces the risks of a severe crisis, poor decision-making, uncertainty, stress, anxiety, dysfunction, poor mental health and well-being, and maximises self-actualisation and human potential.
WOULD YOU ‘MAKE’ ANYTHING TO BE HAPPY?
believe-IN is concerned with facilitating, preventing and promoting change to prevent psychological declines for optimal human functioning. We believe in skills development while providing personalised support to effective decision-making during changes, encourages our clients and your teams to achieve their full potential. We offer Change and Transitions Intervention Programmes, Psychometric tests and Learning Events.
Have you been looking for a solution that enables change and prevents stress? Contact believe-IN we have a personalised solution to your challenges. Check below the three options we have to support you in your change process and choose yours.
Are you exploring the possibility of a Life Change and want to prepare for it by examining alternatives in a process-oriented systematic approach before deciding? The right Intervention Programme for you is Prepare Life Changes.
Are you undergoing a life change or several occurring simultaneously, yet sensing an agitation leading you to think that something much bigger is behind what seems 'just a difficult change'? The correct Intervention Programme for you is Manage Life Transitions.
Are you looking to enhance performance, to boost your professional life and personal life by developing life skills? Or are you seeking to make a life event happen? The adequate Intervention Programme for you is Develop High-Performance.
We work with both individuals and organisations, online, in English, Portuguese and Spanish, worldwide. The first step is for you to arrange your free initial 30-min consultation appointment and find out how we can support you. Go to www.believein.uk/bookings or e-mail us at email@example.com
Private and Confidential. We understand how sensitive it is to talk about it and experience it.
The Facilitator of Change to Individuals and Organisations in Transitions.
Prevention of Psychological Declines and Promotion of Effective Decision-Making.
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