Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

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If you love the power of analytical thinking and data, what I'm about to say may seem a little 'woo woo'.

Bear with me. It could really help improve the way you make decisions.

Have you ever been unable to decide between possible solutions to a problem?

That kind of limbo: 'Maybe this, maybe that' is what I initially go through when deciding the topic for my next blog. I notice that I start with ideas, make a list and sift through them for the 'right' one.

It's a little like brainstorming, but with one essential difference.

I've discovered two surprisingly liberating strategies. The first is to acknowledge that how I feel about a decision is a logical thing to do. Yes, my emotions become part of the decision.

Ever been unable to decide which house or car to buy? Those decisions are usually not based just on how well they match your desired criteria. They're also based significantly on how you feel about them. Does the house have the right ambience? Is the car the right colour, despite having plenty of power?

My second strategy, when I'm feeling stuck about choosing a topic to blog about, is to respond to what I'm feeling by stepping away from wherever I'm working for a short while. When I do that, I've noticed a small new idea or refreshing insight will come to me. I have an 'aha' moment.

When I return, I pen my new way of saying it. I get steadily clearer about how to make my point succinctly. I feel more energised again. I've moved forward toward a good-feeling solution.

Let's be direct

If you don't take emotions into account when making a decision, you're being illogical.

There's something missing from your equation. Our brains need to know how we feel about a decision before we can make it. Literally.

Antonio Domasio's evidence

Antonio Damasio, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, recalls a patient he calls Elliot to illustrate the point. Elliot seemed perfectly okay after an operation for a tumour cut the links between the emotional and rational parts of the brain. But he wasn't okay. He couldn't make even the most basic decisions, like which shoes to wear. His emotional brain didn't tell his rational brain how he felt about the brown shoes or the black shoes. He lost his job as a corporate lawyer and his life went rapidly downhill.

So, how can we use emotions to make decisions? It's not just our thinking that helps us decide what's best. It's also what feels best.

Science reveals how it happens

Whether you know it or not, you're using more than just the pre-frontal cortex at the front of your brain when you're working toward a decision. The emotional brain (a cluster of glands including the amygdala) is also telling you whether the ideas you're working on are 'right' or not.

Could that influence how you might intentionally make decisions? Certainly.

How to be more logical with emotions

Just be open to noticing that you are also feeling as you think. Asking ourselves what we feel strongly about, opens up another way of finding what will work.

It's why the American medical researcher Dr Jonas Salk, said, 'Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.'

If you've already had plenty of experience solving problems and making decisions, you may recognise its value. Maybe not. Not yet.

But here's an invitation – experiment with emotional thinking for a few days. Watch for the gift to emerge.

About Dharan Longley

dharan longley blog

Dharan Longley is a Senior Trainer at Skillset.

Dharan is an international master trainer with post-graduate qualifications in adult education.

His assignments have included training police officers and university managers in the Middle East, as well as teachers and staff of large organisations in New Zealand.

Dharan's topics are 'effective meetings', 'problem-solving and decision-making', 'team development', 'training for trainers' and 'customer service'. He particularly enjoys helping people with diverse points of view agree on practical solutions.

Dharan is based in Wellington. He has a passion for the outdoors. On days off, he’ll be taking photographs of forests or waves, or out kite surfing.

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