In our everyday life, we are constantly faced with different situations that require drastic critical thinking and decision-making skills, especially in the business sector.
Decision-making can be described as the process of making important decisions both in your private, everyday life and in business.
Decision-making refers to the process of selecting an option from among a set of alternatives according to its probability of leading to the best outcomes in terms of the survival chances of the organism.
According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary,2 the term “decision-making” means the process of deciding about something important, especially in a group of people or with an organisation or a company.
It follows from the above that in their everyday duties and activities, bosses, managers, and leaders continually make decisions on various topics and issues.
Moreover, we have to state that it is not only businessmen who are faced with the challenge of taking decisions in a timely manner, but also engineers, doctors, educators, lawyers, etc.
Here, it is also important to note that decisions do not always come that easy. And, although for some people they might be easy-peasy, they may later regret this or that decision that they met and made spontaneously in an ad hoc manner. Yet it is noteworthy that decisions are almost always influenced by a number of accompanying factors, such as emotional background memory, former interpersonal relations, and former positive and/or negative emotions connected with a certain person intertwined with a certain decision, etc.3
All of these factors can sometimes be considered as “noise” that has a huge impact on the final decision over and above mere facts and pure data analysis. Yet they convey very important information to the decision maker as well, which pure data may sometimes lack.
Among the factors influencing decisions are emotions and intuition, which are often neglected in business. Nevertheless, these are tiny little instincts guiding us in handling life that evolution has instilled in us, according to Edward Murray (1964),1 and the business field is no exception.
In this connection, we can speak about the Ted Talk speech of Tracia Wang back in September 2016 entitled “The human insights missing from big data”.8 During her interesting speech, Mrs Wang spoke about the differences between “big data” and “thick data”. Big data is pure data retrieved through analytics, while thick data includes such subtle things as intuition and emotions, likes and dislikes, motivations and intentions, and feelings and desires, which can be gathered through qualitative research.
In her speech, Mrs Wang also raised the example of the (at that time) big telecommunications company Nokia, which she formerly worked for. The company did not take in to consideration her research on the preferences of people in connection with mobile phones, in which she found out through qualitative research that consumers had begun to prefer more sensory touchscreen phones. The company ignored this information and some years later they faced collapse with the introduction of sensory phones to the market. So conducting only purely data-driven analysis based merely on big data is not enough in order to come up with an effective decision that all the parties will eventually benefit from.
As can be seen, the people’s intuition and emotions also have a great impact on the decisions they make, including which phone to own, which car to drive, which dress to wear, and even which partner to sign a contract with.
Although it is primarily believed that emotions may have a negative impact on decision-making processes and, indeed, our overall behaviour, in some cases they have intrinsic meaning and add extra value to the overall decision made, for example based on our former experiences, including emotional ones.3
We have conducted an online survey on whether men or women tend to rely more on their intuition and emotions while taking decisions. The results were obvious, since women are more often inclined towards taking decisions based on their intuition and, as they say, when a woman asks you a question, they most probably already intuitively know the answer.
The results of the above diagram can be explained by the fact that we women tend to make decisions based more on our intuition and gut instinct (though there may be exceptions and differences, since we also differ in the nature of our personality) as the right side of our brains, which is responsible for creativity, emotions, intuition, and feelings, is more developed than that of males. Men are more rational beings in essence and mostly make decisions based on pure facts and rational reasoning, since their left side of the brain, which is responsible for rationality, logic, reason, de-factoring, etc., is more developed than others, according to psychology.
Nonetheless, we should note that in her works on the emotions, Dr Anna Rostomyan argues that emotionality and rationality go hand in hand and should not be viewed in contrast, but rather in comparison. By continually cooperating with one another, emotionality and rationality complement each other and provide essential information to one another, forming the basis of the harmonious interflow of our higher cognitive processes.6
The author clarifies in her PhD dissertation that the rational mind and the emotional mind together make up the basis of our higher cognitive processes and cannot be viewed separately. Of course, the emotional and rational minds sometimes overlap and the emotional mind can come to the forefront and overrule the rational part of our brain in a heated emotional moment.5 Nonetheless, the cooperation of these two minds gives the ultimate chance of gaining insights into the situation at hand, benefiting from the information retrieved from both of them. It is also noteworthy that, in the heat of an emotional moment, we can lose control over the rational part of our brain and the emotions may very explicitly be displayed on the outside through verbal and non-verbal expressions, which are thoroughly discussed in Dr Anna Rostomyan’s book The Ultimate Force of Emotions in Communication, published in Germany in 2022.4
Here, when dealing with a decision, we can speak about the importance of conducting a “diagnostic” analysis while striving towards finding a solution.
According to the authors D. Swanson and J. Dearborn (2017), there are four stages of analytics.7
These include the following interrelated stages (Figure 3). It follows from the above that, if Nokia had conducted such an analysis, it would most probably have helped the managers and engineers to deduce the reasons for which people began to prefer sensory phones and, after the prescriptive stage of analysis, to take actions towards finding the best way for the company to approach matching the demands of the market.
In discussing effective decision-making and noting that emotions do play a vital role here, it is also essential to state that “emotion management” comes to the forefront. Even if you come up with the best decision, if you are unable to conduct emotion management at the workplace with your employees, you will most probably not succeed in implementing the decision at hand.
By “emotion management”, we mean managing, in a healthy manner, your emotions as well as the emotions of those with whom you interact, on both the verbal and non-verbal levels.6 When we communicate with one another, we exchange ideas and thoughts not only on the verbal level through linguistic markers, but also on the non-verbal level through gestures, facial expressions, bodily movements, postures, etc.4 And here, EQ skills can be of great help to us.
Truly, when it comes to making decisions, EQ skills can help you see how your decisions are affected by your emotions, and to manage these accordingly. EQ skills can also assist in recognising emotions in others and detecting how your emotions, as well as those of your co-workers, affect their actual decisions and, in particular, their actions.
See below a couple of suggestions on how to excel in better decision-making through EQ skills:
- Delay the decision: time will settle things down and you will have a better and clearer perspective on things.
- Recognise your emotions, and emotions in those with whom you interact: recognising the emotions present in the process of decision-making will help you identify them and understand why you or the other person thinks in this way or another.
- Identify the emotional side of the decision: this will help you detach from the emotional side and rethink whether emotions intermingling with rationality help, foster, and/or hinder effective decision-making.
- Reappraise the feelings which are hindering your rational decision-making: in this way you will analyse whether emotions are supportive or get in your way in making an effective decision.
- Look for substitute or alternative decisions: this action will keep you safe in the event of failure. However, it should be mentioned that here we can be faced with FOBO (fear of a better option) and, to overcome this, it can be advisable to rely on your intuition.
Here, it is noteworthy that if we are attentive to the emotions of our co-workers and employees in the business field and pay more attention to creating a healthy and supportive working atmosphere, we will stand a better chance of having better performance. Empowered employees make better decisions and resolve problems more effectively, because if they feel secure in their “home” corporation or company, they will perform at their best, which will help them meet decisions and take actions more effectively with a clear mind.
To sum up, when making decisions, it is highly advisable to rely not only on the pure facts, but also to take into account intuition and gut instinct, which have the potential to provide you with additional information, guiding you and protecting you from consequent failure or resultant miscommunication. Hence, if we approach decisions as multifold actions that include very different processes, we will surely succeed and achieve effective results in our company.
About the Author
Dr Anna Rostomyan is a professor, EQ coach, international author, and PhD mentor at the Swiss School of Business Research (SSBR). She defended her PhD excellently in collaboration with the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and Yerevan State University (Armenia). She is the author of five books and 30 publications worldwide, with readers of around 100 nationalities.
Contact email: [email protected], [email protected]
- Murray, E.J. (1964). Motivation and Emotion. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.
- Oxford Learner’s Dictionary (1997). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Rostomyan, Anna (2012). The Impact of Emotional Background Memory at Court. Berlin: DeGruyter.
- Rostomyan, Anna (2013). “Management Techniques of Emotions for Communicative Conflict Reduction”. In Communication: Breakdowns and Breakthrough. Eds. Anabel Ternès. Oxford: Oxford Publications, pp. 141-51.
- Rostomyan, Anna (2020). Business Communication Management: The Key to Emotional Intelligence. Hamburg: Tredition.
- Rostomyan, Anna (2022). “The Ultimate Force of Emotions in Our Lives: A Linguo-cognitive Analysis of Verbal and Non-verbal Expressions of Emotions (on the material of English)” (dissertation). Dȕren, Germany.
- Swanson, David & Dearborn, Jenny (2017). The Data Driven Leader: A Powerful Approach to Delivering Measurable Business Impact Through People Analytics. New York: Wiley.
- Ted Talk by Tracia Wang on “The Human Insights Missing from Big Data” (September 2016, online: accessed December 2021).