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Deciding with Emotions

An average adult is estimated to make around 35,000 decisions throughout the day. From what clothes to wear, how much milk to add to our coffee, or with whom we're going to spend the afternoon, whether more or less crucial, all of these decisions determine our well-being in some way, no matter how small. In this process, the role of our emotional intelligence is key. When faced with multiple options, this set of skills, such as self-regulation or empathy, helps us discern between what our intuition and reflective reasoning tell us.



When we feel distressed or overwhelmed by anger, we are very likely to make impulsive decisions that we will later regret. Likewise, an excess of joy and confidence can affect our ability to assess the risks of our choices. Therefore, it is important to develop our emotional self-awareness, through which we identify and understand our emotions and how they affect our decision-making.


Similarly, if we can manage our emotions effectively, we can control our impulses and thus choose what behaviors we will carry out in a more reflective manner. This is the main function of self-regulation, the component of emotional intelligence that allows us to calm down when we are angry, anxious, or frustrated for some reason. Along with self-awareness, self-regulation allows us to make less impulsive decisions and avoid behaviors that are harmful to ourselves or others.


And what about intrinsic motivation? This aspect of our emotional intelligence drives us to carry out actions that are consistent with our values and the goals we seek to achieve. When we manage to identify our purpose in life and what gives it meaning, it is easier and, at the same time, more effective to choose those options that align with our motivation. Otherwise, when we do not have a clear purpose, it is more likely that we will make decisions driven by urgency, social pressure, or simply randomly.



There are times when our decisions can affect others directly or indirectly. Empathy, or the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others and understand their needs and points of view, makes it easier for us to opt for fairer, more responsible actions that promote the common good. Developing our empathy will help us to more effectively recognize the potential consequences of our decisions and assess whether they may harm others in any way.


Finally, and in relation to empathy, we must mention the role of our social skills in decision-making. How do our communication skills, negotiation skills, or how we resolve conflicts influence our choices? For example, by promoting active listening, we can better understand different points of view and gather more complete information that helps us choose the most effective option. On the other hand, when we know how to establish healthy and trusting relationships, we expand the support resources that could help us when facing complex decisions in the future.


It is, therefore, essential to cultivate the different elements of our emotional intelligence if we want to make better decisions that contribute to our personal and professional growth. We can develop each of these elements in our day-to-day lives through different actions, such as paying more attention to our emotions and thoughts in different situations, practicing stress regulation techniques, or listening carefully to the different points of view to which we are exposed. All of this will make it easier for us to opt for those options that lead us to a more fulfilling and satisfactory life.


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