Are You a Vulcan or a Muppet?


Magazine.franticApril1980When it comes to making decisions, are you more Spock (logical and objective) or more Miss Piggy (passionate and emotional)?

I’m betting most people, especially leaders, would strive to be more Vulcan and base key decisions on evidence and facts. But what if I told you that even when you think you’re being objective and logical, 99.9% of your decisions are actually influenced by emotion?

What?! That’s right. You might be more like Piggy and not even know it. The majority of our decisions are actually based on feelings and emotion; even the ones we think are strategic and logical. That’s because there is no escaping our internal emotional filters. We all have them and use them to weigh evidence, facts and research. That’s why even when experts provide compelling arguments; we sometimes still choose to be the cheese that stands alone.

Our emotional filters take data and evidence and then we do a quick check to see how this information stacks up against our beliefs, perceptions and personal experiences. Let’s say I receive compelling evidence from global health experts telling me flu shots save lives and are safe, I might not rush to get in line. Despite the evidence, if I don’t trust the data (i.e., emotion) I won’t buy it. Or if the evidence conflicts with my personal experience or beliefs, those feelings will cancel out the evidence from even the best “experts.”

Here’s another example. Say you’re the CEO of a large company. You’ve been presented with facts from various teams that show you aren’t ready to launch a new product. But your shareholders are pushing to move forward, even though facts show launching too soon will impact the company’s reputation and bottom line. Logic should win out. But what if the shareholders have hinted you’ll lose your job if you can’t get the job done. Despite the evidence, it would be pretty tempting to keep one’s job, wouldn’t it? That fear (i.e., emotion) will likely influence the final decision.

The problem is our perception that we have to choose logic or emotion when neither is more valuable than the other. The best decisions combine logic and emotion. This means it’s o.k. to be Miss Spock Piggy when making decisions. In fact, doing so will make you a better leader.


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