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VOL. 128 | NO. 98 | Monday, May 20, 2013

Chris Crouch

The Myth of Rationality

By Chris Crouch

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Do decisive people base their decisions on rational factors or do they often rely on intuition and emotions? According to Jan Halper’s book “Quite Desperation: The Truth About Successful Men,” if the truth were known, most executives rely more on emotional factors when making important decisions.

This “if the truth were known” statement reveals an interesting plot twist in Halper’s findings. When asked, 73 percent of the senior-level executives agreed that they rely more on emotional factors when making decisions; however, most of them confessed that they wouldn’t let others know they based their decision on factors contrary to logic and rational thinking. Apparently, the truth with regard to this particular matter is somewhat uncomfortable for executives to admit.

So, there you have it. Keep in mind that Halpern’s book was all about male executives. After all has been said about hard-nosed men in the business world, many of them admit privately that they more often than not trust their feelings.

I find this very interesting because for years I have had a theory, admittedly anecdotal, about emotions. It seems to me that emotions are our only direct/internal source of knowledge. Think about it, most everything you know originated from some indirect/external source, such as a parent, a teacher, a coach, or a book, an article, or video. Emotions are your internal guides that help you make good decisions. And they are generally pretty accurate.

At various times in our lives, external sources showed us, or told us, how the world works. Or at least they showed us how they thought the world works. Since we did not directly experience the things they were teaching us, we had to decide whether or not to accept these things as true for us or not.

In order to get any practical value out of my theory, allow me to grossly oversimplify emotions for a moment. In general, most emotions can be grouped into one of four broad categories: joy, sadness, anger and fear. Each of these categories includes opposite extremes and everything in between. For example, anger can mean being mildly annoyed, filled with rage, or any level of intensity in between these two extremes.

Here’s a strategy. As you go though your day, trying to make the best decisions you can make considering the circumstances, pay very close attention to the emotions associated with your decisions. Sure, gather as many facts as you can. However, at a minimum, at the beginning of the decision-making process and at the end – after you have gathered all the readily available facts and applied all the logical thinking you can come up with – check in with your emotional guidance system. In other words, why not use both emotions and rational thinking to make the tough decisions? And if possible, make decisions in a way that will maximize joy and minimize sadness, anger and fear.

When making tough decisions, why not ask: What are both the facts and my intuition telling me about this decision?

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.

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