I’m pretty sure I don’t hold the record for bad decision making but I’ve made enough, and caused enough damage with them that I had to take notice and try to understand what leads to up that moment… the bad decision.
If you’re wondering why I would disclose that I’ve made bad decisions, actually really bad ones, it’s because my friend Ann mentioned in the comments on my post on leadership traits that she was struggling with emotions in her decision making.
Also, if you read my About page, you’ll know that I am trying to live an authentic and transparent life and share portions of my journey in hopes it may help others… a good segue to the rest of the post.
Just to be clear, when I say horrific I mean career, family and nearly life ending horrific… I was referring to myself.
If I had the smarts, what was missing?
Intelligence, and I don’t mean the IQ type of intelligence, I mean emotional intelligence or EQ.
This didn’t mean emotion was lacking, in fact emotions played a huge role in the decisions I was making. The problem is that I was ignorant to their relevance in my decisions. I was practicing emotional ignorance rather than emotional intelligence.
To put it plainly, my bad decisions were not rooted in low intelligence, flawed logic, deficient skills, or any of the other usual suspects. They resulted from emotional ignorance… on a grand scale.
I was a completely logical thinker, I was employing completely left-brain solutions, all the while getting blindsided by unrecognized and unmanaged emotions that were actually dictating my decisions — fear, anger, excitement.
How do I practice emotional intelligence?
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. ~ Michael Corleone
I couldn’t resist this Godfather quote as it’s perfect for understanding what to do… keep your emotions close. Know them, experience them, acknowledge them. Understand their characteristics as fully as you can so you know what you’re feeling.
Being in touch with our emotions — having a high EQ — helps us filter the noise and avoid knee-jerk mistakes or decisions fueled by those emotions.
- Understand your emotions. I actually spent a good part of my life trying to avoid feeling (which doesn’t work by the way) so I had to make an effort to understand and take note of my feelings. I had to teach myself to recognize when I actually felt angry, fearful or whatever. Ignoring emotions doesn’t make them go away, just invisible. In the same way turning your back on an oncoming train won’t keep it from hitting you.
- Leave the gun, take the cannoli — I couldn’t resist. Learn to step away from emotional situations and make sure you have a grasp of what you’re feeling and why. Then you can look at your emotions objectively and step back into the situation ready to make better decisions. This isn’t easy but if you get good at it you’ll be able to look at situations as if you were someone else and think about what you would recommend to that person in the situation.
- Know there will be uncertainty. By definition, when we make a decision we are weighing uncertain outcomes. So get used to it and if you can, talk through your thoughts with someone who might not be as close to what’s going on. Then, accept that ultimately you can’t control people, places, things or the outcome… only your reaction to it.
I’ve taken a bit of a personal approach to this but these steps will help in any situation, personal or business.
Those with fine tuned emotional skills can recognize their own inner state, pinpoint the cause and eliminate noise that might interfere with clear decision making at home or the office.
Have your decisions been derailed by emotional interference?