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EQ in Decision Making

#decisionmaking #emotionalintelligence #eqfit #optimism #patterns Mar 06, 2023

When do you find it difficult to make good decisions? For me, it is when I am dealing with some challenging emotions that arise out of different circumstances in my life.

The power of EQ

For example, recently we had a client call us and ask if they could be released from an agreement we had in place due to the rapid increase in inflation and interest rates. This really hit me hard because it was a very nice piece of business for us that provided revenue for a significant period of time. My immediate reaction was to panic (not a great reaction). Thankfully I kept that to myself. Ever been there? Where you have this rush of emotions that literally shuts down your thinking until you can deal with them. So how did I manage the situation? Through the EQ skills I have developed over the years. Here is how that went in the order I used the EQ skills/competencies:

  1. Recognizing patterns - I realized that when I get in a situation like this, I have a specific pattern that I enter into. That pattern is not necessarily helpful or productive. I tend to cycle around why this is happening, why it is bad, why is it happening to me. In this situation, the individual was asking me for something that I did not want to give them, and it was creating tension in me. This engages the survival brain. The problem with that is "fight, flight, freeze" does not work very well in situations like this.
  2. Emotional literacy - I stopped and identified each of the emotions that I had. At first, that may seem strange, but naming the emotions and understanding their impact on you is the first step in better managing them so that you can make decisions with more clarity and intention.
  3. Empathy - Once I was able to diminish the emotional impact I was experiencing (reduce the intensity of the emotions), I could start to see things from the other person's perspective. They were carrying a very heavy emotional load, worried about the future of their business and their people. I was able to see things from their perspective. Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is an investment into understanding other people, their perspectives, their needs, and what is driving them.
  4. Purpose (Pursue Noble Goals) - I have a set of rules I live my life by based on what I believe to be true about myself and my place in the world. One of those rules is the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This EQ skill helps me to stay on course. It gives me direction in difficult times and situations. It is an anchor I can hold onto when facing challenges.
  5. Navigate emotions - By this time I was able to begin to effectively navigate my emotions so that I could access my higher thinking skills. It is amazing how emotions can lock down your higher cognitive functions when they are triggered. Knowing this is self-awareness. I knew I wanted to come out of this without burning any bridges, so I had to navigate my emotions so that I could think more clearly and make more intentional decisions for better outcomes.
  6. Apply consequential thinking - This is taking the time to think through different options. It is easy to go on autopilot and simply react. But to respond takes some thought. Responding comes from the ability to think and come up with different options. I took some time and thought through what my options were in this situation:
    • Hold the individual to the agreement with no accommodation - bad choice and definitely burning a bridge.
    • Restructure the agreement - helpful to me but would not give them the help they need.
    • Suspend the agreement until a future time when they are in a better financial position - not great for me but good for long term relationship and future business.
  7. Internal motivation - drawing energy from my internal reserves to replace the energy lost when this situation came up. This helps me to move forward with intention even when it is a challenging and difficult situation. This internal reserve of energy carries me through times when external motivation is not present.
  8. Exercise optimism - looking to the future with hope and possibility. This EQ skill empowered me to be able to communicate the choice I made in a way that set the stage for future opportunities. It also helped the individual feel better about the situation. I am sure this was one of the most difficult calls they had to make. Think of having to go to someone and tell them you cannot live up to something you agreed to. The practice of authentic optimism helps everyone.

I went into this relationship as a service provider. That has now turned into being a trusted advisor and friend. Did it cause me some financial stress, yes. Was it a challenge, yes. Would I have dealt with this as well without strong EQ skills...absolutely not!

Our Brain at Work

There is a great book by David Rock - "Your Brain at Work." If you want to go deep on understanding how your brain works and how that impacts your life and work, then I highly recommend this book. Let me share something I learned from his book. The part of our brain that makes decisions, solves problems, and thinks critically is like the stage inside a theater. Only so many actors (topics/ideas/thoughts/information) can fit on the stage at the same time. The more actors present, the more our attention and focus are split. To bring clarity and focus to get the best results, we need to clear the stage of all unnecessary actors. Then we need to bring those actors (information) on stage in the most beneficial order to help us effectively think through whatever it is we are considering.


Work through an exercise with me.

  • What is something in your life right now that concerns you?
  • What emotions are you having about that situation? Name the emotions specifically (fear, anxiety, frustration, apathy...).
  • Now, what is it specifically about that thing that is creating the emotions for you?
  • What can you do to resolve this concern?
  • Are you willing to invest what is needed to bring that resolution?

Sometimes if we take a step by step approach to navigating our emotions, we can bring resolution that is needed to move forward. The decision making process is based in taking the rational and emotional and bringing those together to make the decision. You can see that if these are out of balance, then your decision making will be negatively impacted. Too much rational with little emotional leaves a part of yourself and others out of the decision making process, specifically how does the decision impact the individual person and how do they feel about the decision - which has a direct impact on engagement and relationships. Too much emotional with little rational leads to decisions that consider people but not necessarily the facts and details that are critical to making the best decisions. Balance. That is the key. Our best decisions come when there is a balance between the rational and emotional in our brains.

EQ skills in decision making

Earlier in this article I shared the 8 skills/competencies of emotional intelligence. I shared them in the order I practiced them in the specific situation I experienced. The beauty of EQ skills/competencies, they can be learned and developed rapidly with an investment of energy, effort, and some time.

Here is a graph that shows a multi-year comparison of EQ scores to Success scores. This came out of the Six Seconds "State of the Heart" long term research. There is clear evidence that higher EQ scores equal higher success scores. How do you get higher EQ scores, by practicing EQ skills.

This directly correlates with making better decisions. When we are too rational, we leave the people impact out of our decision making and that hurts relationships, engagement, and communication. When we are too emotional, we don't consider the rational data enough, we tend to focus internally, not externally, and we can hurt relationships and communication by reacting instead of responding. To repeat something I said earlier, "Our best decisions come when there is a balance between the rational and emotional in our brains." 


For more, check out our other resources:

EQFIT® YouTube Channel


EQFIT® Podcast

 Copyright © 2023 EQFIT® - Author: Steven Goodner. All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact: [email protected]

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