Role of Emotions in Decision Making

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When it comes to decision-making, all experts agree that it shouldn’t be based on emotions. The reason is simple; emotions are transient but rationality and logic are lasting.

Any action based on emotion may give you a temporary relief and satisfaction but it may have lasting undesirable consequences. That applies to any emotion, be it anger, love, greed, or fear.

Does that mean emotions have no place in decision-making?

Far from it! Being human, we have no choice but to live with our emotions. That’s a part of us that gives our lives flavor.

So how can we incorporate emotions into our decisions, without sabotaging the rational and logical thinking?

When it comes to decision-making, our emotions need a seat at the table, but they should not be allowed to overtake the process. One should give weight to long-term emotional effects of a decision rather than the immediate relief it provides.

Math and logic have lasting effects, so any decision purely based on logic stands the test of time and wins eventually. However, some emotions can have a lasting effect as well.

It’s wise to separate transient emotions from lasting emotions, and then give the lasting emotions a seat at the decision-making table.

After assessing logical impacts of a decision, you must consider the lasting emotional impact of a decision as well. Will your decision, albeit logical, make you feel a certain way in the long run? Be it guilt, lack of self-respect, or hurt self-esteem.

Best way to keep the transient emotions like anger off the decision-making table is to have a cool-off period.

When presented with a situation, keep in mind that you don’t have to respond immediately. You must never let anyone or any situation force a response on you. Your true power comes from responding at the time of your own choosing.

Most often an event itself is not as big of a problem as your reaction to it.

Ideally, you would like to be completely detached from the problem when making a decision, so you can assess the situation and the consequences of any decision objectively. However, if you haven’t reached that level of Zen-like detachment, you should let your emotions present their case after a cool-off period. Ask yourself “How would this decision make me feel in the long run?” For example, standing up for what you truly believe may prove to be costly for you in some situations and so seem illogical. On the other hand, if not standing up for what you believe can hurt your self-esteem and impact your performance in the long run, then it’d be logical to take your long term emotions into account.


Ideally, you would like to be as logical as a Vulcan and as detached as a Zen master when it comes to decision-making, but if you cannot be those, you should at most let your long term emotions have a say in your decision making. As for short term emotions, avoid them as much as you can. Give yourself a cool-off period. Sleep on it!

To learn more check out Dr. Eric Amidi’s ideas on sound decision making.