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Emotional Intelligence for Leaders: Emotional Reasoning

Being aware of emotions is one thing, but choosing the most appropriate one for a given situation is another. That’s what we will dive deep into in this topic on the fourth component to emotional intelligence: emotional reasoning.

Last time, we talked about being authentic in expressing our emotions. Emotional reasoning is about making sure we express the right emotions and to not let them control us.

Emotional reasoning is simply defined as the skill in utilizing emotional information (from yourself and others) in reasoning, planning and decision-making. It tests your ability to understand the way emotions influence people’s behavior so that you can factor this into your regular and daily decision making. It also allows you to predict which emotions may arise in given situations and how these may change as circumstances develop, and to consider this information in your problem-solving and decision-making processes. What this means is that you are able to integrate data on peoples’ emotions with facts, figures, and other cognitive data you have collected on a situation so that you make well-informed decisions.

There is a trap associated with emotional reasoning, however. Every time you have a feeling, you attach a meaning. When you start making conclusions based on your feelings, you allow your feelings to dictate your reality. And the problem is when reasoning through our emotions, there is more misinterpretation and false conclusions, and therefore wrong decisions. This can be a particularly common problem in the workplace, where the pressure to make decisions quickly and the presence of conflicting opinions and personalities can lead to emotional reactions that cloud our judgment.

When we overly-rely on emotional reasoning in the workplace, we often make decisions based on how we feel rather than on facts or logical analysis. For example, if we have a negative emotional reaction to a or a project, we may assume that they are incompetent or that the project is doomed to failure, even if there is no evidence to support these beliefs. This can lead us to make decisions that are not in the best interests of the company or our own careers.

Confirmation Bias and Fundamental Attribution Error

Emotional reasoning is tied to cognitive biases since it’s based on emotions, which are, well, biased. It’s very easy to fall into the traps of emotional reasoning and make us vulnerable to our own judgements.

One of these is confirmation bias. This is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and to ignore or discount information that challenges those beliefs. For example, if we have a negative emotional reaction to someone, we may selectively pay attention to their mistakes and overlook their successes, even if the evidence suggests that they are doing a good job. This can lead us to make unfair judgments about their performance and to miss out on opportunities to collaborate and learn from them. As we previously talked about in the previous blog, going in that direction will most likely hinder that person’s psychological safety, and his ability to authentically express himself to you.

Another way that emotional reasoning can impact our decision-making in the workplace is through what is known as the fundamental attribution error. This is the tendency to attribute other people’s actions and behaviors to their personal characteristics rather than to situational factors. For example, if a coworker makes a mistake, or is struggling to finish a deliverable, we may assume that they are lazy or incompetent rather than considering the possibility that they were under a lot of pressure or that there were external factors that contributed to the mistake. This can lead us to make unfair judgments about our coworkers and to miss out on opportunities to understand their perspectives and experiences.

Making Emotional Reasoning Work for You

Because emotions are temporary and they can be at times triggered in the absence of a real threat, they aren’t always a trustworthy indicator of what is true. But they can nonetheless be helpful and informative in situations, and it can serve as an opportunity to keep defuse tense situations should they show up. In order to do that, however, we must use emotional reasoning to our advantage, and to not fall into the traps of bias.

How do we do just that? One of the key strategies is to take a step back and try to view situations objectively. This means looking at the evidence and considering all of the factors that may have contributed to a situation, rather than relying solely on our emotional reactions. It also means being open to new information and perspectives and being willing to change our beliefs and decisions in the face of new evidence.

Another important strategy is to practice mindfulness and self-awareness, which goes back to the first component of emotional intelligence. This means being aware of our own emotions and how they may be influencing our decisions and beliefs. It also means being able to recognize when we are using emotional reasoning and to take steps to challenge and overcome those biases. This can involve seeking out the perspectives of others and asking for feedback on our decisions and beliefs.

An exercise that you can do is to try to predict how people will feel before meeting or talking to them. Simply ask yourself, “How will they feel if I say this, how will they feel if I say that?”. Check to see if your predictions were right when you meet them. In here, you are actively trying to put yourself in their shoes, putting your own limited perspectives out of the equation.

Do you want to be a better leader?

In conclusion, emotional reasoning is a component of emotional intelligence that can be problematic in the workplace if used incorrectly. By being aware of this bias and taking steps to avoid it, we can make better decisions and foster a more positive and productive work environment.

These ideas of improved decision-making and productivity are all part and parcel of being a leader for your business. And to know more about all of that, check out our leadership courses and other resources on our website! Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to stay up-to-date on all our content!

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