“People often make decisions that are influenced by emotions that have nothing to do with the decisions they are making,” says Stéphane Côté, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
According to Côté, we fall prey to our biases all the time. We may be excited about an upcoming vacation and decide that now is the time to make that investment we’ve been pondering. Or we may be frustrated about our kid misbehaving at school and snap at a coworker.
How we overcome these biases, continues Côté is to become more emotionally intelligent. When we understand the sources of our emotions, and can pinpoint them where they belong, we are much less likely to be affected by them.
Conducting an experiment with her colleagues, Côté, found that people with lower levels of emotional understanding allowed anxiety unrelated to the decisions they were making influence their decisions. On the other hand, those with higher emotional intelligence did not.
And the equation works the other way. In a separate experiment, Côté found that people with higher levels of emotional intelligence were able to block unrelated emotions from influencing their decisions, simply by making them aware that their anxiety was not related to the decisions at hand.
The suggestion Côté offers is to pause before making decisions when your feel anxious. Then try to determine the source of the anxiety and work to resolve it before making any decisions. On the flipside, when feeling excited, it is best to also pause as our excitement can sway our decisions and make us less aware about the possible risks involved.
It is not that we can simply stymie emotions or expect not the have them. Rather, we can become more aware of where they are coming from – especially when making decisions. As Côté notes, “People who are emotionally intelligent don’t remove all emotions from their decision-making. They remove emotions that have nothing to do with the decision.”