I’ve had my fair share of discrimination when someone questioned my capabilities to run the company because I am a woman, and research shows that women express emotions more frequently than men. However, I recognize that when emotions are high, intellect runs low so I always have to be assertive to act with integrity, purpose and passion and come up with an educated decision at all times (Ming Zhao).
The words from above caught my attention: “research shows that women express emotions more frequently than men.” A quick search of research indicates women do not express more emotion than men. Bias attributes more emotion to women, but that is merely a stereotype.
So what else should be questioned from Ming Zhao’s claims? Consider “when emotions are high, intellect runs low so I always have to be assertive to act with integrity, purpose and passion and come up with an educated decision at all times.” This statement makes two important and distinct points: 1. Emotions can hijack our ability to make sound decisions. 2. Emotions enable us to make sound decisions.
First, when “emotions run high, intellect runs low” has been confirmed in research. When the amygdala is activated with high emotion, the neocortex does shut down. Why is that? Because when the emotional decision-making center of the brain is highly engaged with certain emotions – anger, frustration, distrust, fear – the body is perceiving potentially serious danger that calls for immediate action. In short, less thinking and more reacting. Regardless of gender, when we are feeling strong emotions of fear, anger or repulsion, our neocortex is less likely to be engaged.
The next statement is much more intriguing and leads to an important and different conclusion: “I… have to be assertive to act with integrity, purpose and passion and come up with an educated decision at all times.” [Emphasis added.] Integrity and passion as well as purpose are emotions – positive emotions. When we are feeling strong positive emotions of passion, purpose, integrity, trust and respect, we engage our neocortex much more readily to make informed and educated decisions. Emotions, therefore, are not antithetical to good decision making: they are essential to it.
Emotional competence is the ability to recognize the emotions that are signaling us to be uncomfortable or wary, to name them and seek the reason why “warning bells” are going off, to step back, and to reconnect with our values and purpose to make the decision of how to proceed. Emotions also signal when to move forward, engage, connect and make the decision of how to proceed. We readily recognize when uncomfortable or, one might say, negative emotions threaten to derail decisions; we need to also know when positive emotions move us forward faster. Consider the bestselling business book The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey. Trust, one of the most powerful, pivotal emotions, either speeds us forward when it is present or puts on the brakes when it is missing and other emotions tell us to be careful.
It is worth saying again: No decision can be made unless an emotional value is assigned to it. Warning emotions signal reasons to slow down; positive emotions can speed up the decision making. Let’s stop talking about “rational decisions” versus “emotional decisions” as if there is a dichotomy. All decisions are emotional. Decisions are also rational when grounded and confirmed by data received that leads to trust.