Scott’s Thoughts: When Reason Fails

“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into..”

Jonathan Swift

(November 1667 – October 1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric.

A burned out lightbulb.

Are you undervaluing the emotional side of decision making?

We like to think that our decisions are rooted in rational thought. Reason has always been there to help us explain “what makes sense” in particular situations. But as any real estate pro knows, emotions play a much greater role in the decision making process.

How many times have you found yourself up against the ego of an agent on the other side of a deal? How often have you beat your head against the wall because a seller, even after seeing comparable market values, is not compelled to adjust their selling price?

Have you ever found yourself wishing hard that something wasn’t so, even when you knew it was true?

Where reason fails, we must be open to the emotional factors in the decision making process. The first step, of course, is acknowledging privately that emotional factors are in play, and that the strict boundaries of rational argument are no longer valid. It may seem like a small thing, but learning to accept the fact that logic will not rule the day provides you with a much wider range of options when negotiating points with an opposing party (or even clearly seeing your own dilemma).

Once you’ve accepted a broader (and perhaps irrational) field of understanding, your second step is to work hard to empathize with the emotional point of view which restricts progress. To do so, you must listen carefully, because often emotional responses to situations are cloaked in rationalizations.

If you’re able to relinquish your grip on the “logic” of a deal and open your mind to the influence of emotional decision making, you have a greater chance of either A) finding a new path toward compromise, or B) understanding that, at the present moment, emotional conditions are too insurmountable and further effort is misspent time.

This is not to suggest that all emotional decision making is poor decision making. In fact, an increasing amount of research shows that our emotional intelligence is vital to rapid-fire decision making and creativity in business and management.

Be conscious of the emotional influence in business and in the end you’ll make better decisions across the board.

(For a couple of fascinating reads on irrational decision making, you might want to check out Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational: “The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” and Ori & Rom Brafman’s book Sway: “The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior”)

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