Photo by QueenNeveen
This post is the second post in a series of posts I am writing about lessons about managing people from the book Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely (for the first post in the series, see here). This time I want discuss chapter 5.
Chapter 5 is called the influence of arousal – why hot is much hotter than we realize. In short, it describes the effect that feelings and extreme emotions have on our decision making processes. It is like each and every one of us contains a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A rational, calculating persona and an emotional, less sophisticated side. And it happens to us all the time even if we are not aware of the effects. And when you are dealing with and managing people, you are prone to a constant state of varying emotions.
For me, I think the most important lesson from reading this chapter is a two part lesson – wait and re-evaluate
Wait – Let’s say something happens. For example, a peer or an employee makes a mistake or sends you an e-mail that you feel is wrong (to use the nice term). You are angry and you want to instantly write back to him an angry e-mail. You write a wonderful e-mail explaining his entire family history and how it pertains to the current situation. And you hit send. And then, a few minutes after that, you calm down. And you think about it. Actually, he is right. He might not entirely accurate, but if you think about it from his perspective, you can understand why he said what he said. And after the apologies (assuming he forgives you) you talk to him and understand that the problem was in how you explained things to begin with.
Have you been there? I have. The solution – if something in your everyday work makes you feel a particular emotion, just stop. Wait a few minutes. Wait a few hours. Re-examine the situation and then make the decision.
Re-evaluate – there are some decisions that we know are important. And still, we make them in different states of emotions. This rule is not practical in all situations, but if you have the opportunity, make the decision twice. I first came across the advice while reading Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui book Billion Dollar Lessons and manifesto Let’s Get Persian:
Herodotus, the Greek historian, reported that the ancient Persians always made important decisions twice—first when they were drunk, and then again when they were sober. Only if the Persians reached the same decision, drunk and sober, would they act on that decision. The approach apparently worked—the Persians dominated the much of the Middle East and Central Asia for three centuries.
They talk about it in terms of how to create dissent and overcome groupthink, but I think it is applicable to inter-personal communication as well.
Ariely mentions in his book that “Looking from one emotional state to another is difficult”. To use his analogy even further, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde don’t really communicate. The decision Mr. Hyde makes under the enhanced state of emotions seems completely rational to him. But when Dr. Jekyll re-evaluates the same decision, he will understand how irrational it is. We need to create this communication between the sides and allow them to discuss the rationality. Sometimes, the decision would not change. Sometimes it will. But at least you will have some kind of assurance that it was made (hopefully) more rationally and that it will be fairer to your peers or employees.