The anxiety you experience when making investment decisions may have more to do with the traffic you dealt with on your way to work than anything else, but having good levels of emotional intelligence can protect you from this. Studies have shown that understanding the source and relevance of emotions influences how much sway they have over individuals’ decision-making and can affect the willingness to take risks (Yip & Côté, 2012).
“People often make decisions that are influenced by emotions that have nothing to do with the decisions they are making,” says Stéphane Côté, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “People are driving and it’s frustrating, they get to work and the emotions they felt in their car influences what they do in their offices. Or they invest money based on emotions that stem from things unrelated to their investments. But our investigation reveals that if they have emotional intelligence, they are protected from these biases.”
Being emotionally intelligent means being both highly conscious of your own emotional states, even negativity—frustration, sadness, or something more subtle—and able to identify and manage them. When making decisions, learning to identify the roots of your emotion and pay attention only to those feelings that are relevant to the decisions being made is what counts.
Emotionally intelligent people are also especially tuned in to the emotions others experience. It’s easy to see how a sensitivity to emotional signals from within and from the social environment could make one a better leader, friend or parent. Fortunately, these skills can be honed.
Here are a few tips about how to improve your emotional intelligence and therefore, enhance your ability to make effective decisions.
- When you turn inward to examine yourself, whatever you find, don’t judge it, but learn to observe it and even like it.
- When experiencing pain or failure, instead of being stridently self-critical, treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding as you would others.
- Respond rather than react to difficult situations by introducing a pause before speaking and acting impulsively.
- Take the time to pause and give adequate thought to the impact of your words and actions on others.
- When tempted to lose control, ask yourself, “Who or what am I trying to control that is beyond my ability to control?” Then focus on what you can control – your actions.
- When speaking with people, give them your full attention and the airtime they need.
- Listen to the content of what people say as well as the connotation (the emotional implications).
- View your problems as temporary, controllable and linked to a specific situation, then look forward and make a commitment to do what it takes to improve the situation.
Research and Development Assistant
Yip, J., & Côté, S. (2012). The Emotionally Intelligent Decision Maker. Psychological Science, 24(1), 48-55. doi: 10.1177/0956797612450031