We make emotional decisions then justify them with logic.
I was lucky enough to spend a large part of last week at the Autodesk Customer Success Management EMEA Summit in Barcelona.
During the event one of the speakers made the assertion that as humans, we make emotional decisions which we then justify using logic. This resonated loudly with me to the extent that i may not have focused on the rest of the presentation as fully as I might - sorry boss!
To a large degree I think that is correct. Certainly the first part. I can think of countless situations where a decision has been one based largely on emotion. I think the part that logic plays is somewhat more complicated though.
Perhaps the "biggest" decision that I've ever made was to start a family. It was certainly the decision that has the most impact on my life. OK, the biggest decision we've ever made that's had the most impact on our lives! More on joint decision later though. That choice was almost entirely emotional, I don't believe logic was involved at all. I used to work with on on the UK's largest general insurers. As part of their marketing they would sponsor an annual 'Cost of a Child' calculator. This was on online service that allowed you to input a set of variables which would output an estimation of the cost of your family (existing or planned) through to their 18th birthdays. Every year I argued that it was a pointless exercise. The sums output were invariably huge illustrating that parents could not afford any of the products that the insurer was pushing (or anything other than childcare fees and gruel). There is no logic that will justify that particular emotional decision.
I don’t believe that we use logic to justify a decision- more to “sense check it” in most cases. I’d like some Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones. Emotionally I yearn for them even though I’m not the most materialistic of people. I’ve wanted them for several years. The issue is that, having done extensive user testing (mostly in John Lewis and airport departure lounges) I feel that cheaper models are not of sufficient quality to be worth it. Bose QC 35’s are the very thing for me. As someone who travels a lot and often works from home in a noisy house magic a logical argument to justify the purchase is easy. I could afford them at a stretch. So why haven’t I bought any? Well, my logical brain tells me that the cost isn't justified. I have an acceptable pair of wired "normal headphones" that are fine in most cases - the only time they are really poor is in an aeroplane and I'm not travelling long hall so much at the moment. So, until I find myself a little drunk in a branch of John Lewis or at Heathrow logic wins.
Logic is also the only driver for many decisions. I recently had an unfortunate incident which led to our family car being towed away by the insurance company's recovery agents never to be seen again. This gave us the fantastic "opportunity" to search for a new car. We don't have endless pots of money. We have 3 children the oldest of 2 which are strapping six-footers and often seem to be giving lifts to family and friends. That combined with the fact that we drive the whole family 600 miles into France every year mean't we have some specific needs. There were some cars with an emotional pull but in fact the only suitable candidate was the dull under specced Ford that neither my Wife or I like but best suits our needs. Don't panic though: our second car is a cute pistachio green Fiat 500 that I look a complete chump driving and we don't all fit in - ho hum!
So what happens in the case of joint decisions? There's no such thing. In my view each person makes a decision in one of the ways mentioned above above and whomever is the most attached to their emotional decision wins the day. The thing is that while we can use logic to justify an emotional decision we cannot use it to persuade somebody who believes that the course of action that they wish to take based on a gut or heart decision. It's like trying to teach a fish Esperanto; believe me I've tried (the logic based dissuasion not the fish education).
There are many ways of reaching a decision or deciding on a course of action. The real trick for me is to be able to move beyond the decision. Understand what has influenced you, be content that you've made the best choice you can and move on. Look back to learn from past decisions but don't second guess yourself or wish you'd done things differently. That way lies madness.