From People Skills to Strategy: How Do We Make Decisions?

How Do We Make Decisions?

Considering we make a seemingly infinite amount of decisions on a daily basis, it's not surprising that there are multiple factors that contribute towards the choices we make. No single decision is simply a whim where the answer is plucked out of thin air. Every choice we make is based upon a number of factors from the innate behavior we've developed over the years to the emotions we feel in the split second where a decision needs to be made. In fact, according to scientists, our emotional state is a critical element of decision making.

With so many options and alternatives to choose from, how do we make decisions?

Making decisions is a part of life, but when our bad decisions begin to outweigh our good decisions, it's time to take a closer look at ourselves. Here, we'll be exploring how we make decisions, why bad decisions occur and how we can all start to make better decisions moving forward.

Neuroscientist and USC professor Dr. Antonio Damasio even went as far as to develop a somatic marker hypothesis that helps describe how our most basic emotions can determine our decisions. Dr. Damasio's theory is that the amygdala (the part in our brain that holds our most visceral emotions) and the orbitofrontal cortex (the decision-making factory in our brains) are crucial to the neural circuit that helps us create judgments and decisions.

In his book Descarte's Error, Dr. Damasio wrote: “nature appears to have built the apparatus of rationality not just on top of the apparatus of biological regulation, but also from it and with it." He believes our feelings are intrinsically connected to our rational (or, occasionally, irrational) functions. Ultimately, making decisions would be impossible without emotions according to his hypothesis, as we'd lack any motivation to make them.

Of course, our feelings aren't the only factors that can affect our judgments. Another is the fact that decisions have real consequences and, in a sense, can cost us. A study undertaken by the University of Minnesota found that making decisions can result in reduced “self-regulation".

That can encapsulate less stamina, less motivation following failure, increased procrastination, and overall, just putting less effort into life to ensure we don't lose out.

This is closely linked with the inevitable expectations that can affect the decisions we make.

If we have very low expectations, which is usually caused by the core beliefs we hold about ourselves and society as a whole, and these expectations are met, we're more likely to make more decisions. However, if a decision we make goes unrewarded in our eyes, it can really put us off making similar choices in the future.

Why Do We Make Bad Decisions?

For many of us, bad decisions are simply written off as mistakes. Unfortunately, this changes once we begin to realize that our bad choices are happening far more often than good choices, that the balance is out of alignment and mistakes are far too common. Since emotions have such a big impact on our decisions and choices, surely they must have something to do with the bad decisions we make?

Everyone knows that bad decisions are made when we have to rush or if we are stressed, but could there be something more? For one of the best answers, we must return to the work of Dr. Damasio and consider one of the most decision-heavy games in existence, one where your victory is based entirely upon your choices: poker. According to an 888poker article that delves into the world of poker psychology, even the best poker players in the world can't stop themselves from making bad decisions every so often.

Dr. Damasio conducted an experiment to see how a card player's emotions affected their skills, finding that emotional intuition often kicked in long before a player could possibly know if their cards were good or bad. It was after this experiment that he concluded that stored emotional memories could impact decision making on an unconscious level. So, not only can bad decisions be caused if you're flustered at the moment, but it's also possible if you have negative emotional memories stored in your mind.

It's clear that emotions play massively important roles in how we make decisions. Despite these being deeply personal factors, external influences can also cause us to make bad decisions.

Decisions often require more than a yes or no answer.

Many of us rely heavily on social information collected from our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others on social media. Over time, this can lessen our innate instinct to rely on our own thoughts and feelings about a situation and cause us to go with the group mentality.

Poker requires many decisions, but even the most experienced poker players can make mistakes.

If we're members of a well-functioning group with great information, positive social dynamics, and reasonable opinions, then bad decisions may remain few and far between. However, if we find ourselves in a group where there's a lot of negativity and, let's be real here, idiots, then we're more likely to make bad decisions. Ultimately, bad choices are formed from bad information. This could be from a bad situation you find yourself in, bad memories, or a bad social circle. If you find yourself making bad decisions far too often, then it's time to make some changes in your life.

How Can We Make Better Decisions?

To put it simply, in order to make better decisions moving forward, you have to get better information: good information that can inform your choices. You should rarely base your personal or business decisions off of what others are doing, but it always helps to start by surrounding yourself with positive, emotionally intelligent people. Think of your decision-making processes as a computer – if you have only negative data going in from unreliable sources, chances are, you're not going to function very well.

Next, you must begin to work on your own internal struggles. Figure out why it is that you make certain poor judgments. Is there an emotional memory stored away that either stops you from making the right decision or causes you to make the same bad choices repeatedly in the hopes of a different outcome? Perhaps you are more preoccupied with the cost that making a decision could leave you with, so you simply make the choice that best suits your low expectations?

By asking yourself these questions and really getting to the heart of your decision-making abilities you may be able to rebuild your whole decision-processing facilities. In time, you'll be making good decisions as if there were never any negative choices to make at all.


Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.

In a recent study conducted by, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.

Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of, believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.