Tips On How To Make More Assertive Decisions

decision making, decision definition, tough decisions, types of decisions“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion” – Chinese Proverb

Although we are not always aware of it, making decisions is part of our daily life. We deal with simple ones like what to wear or eat to the more challenging ones like what university to go to or a business decision. Due to the high number of decisions we have to make on a daily basis it is almost impossible to make rational decisions all the time because our ability for reasoning is limited. Therefore it is extremely helpful to know how our minds work when making a decision.  We use different methods to make decisions and recognising which method we are using at that particular time will give us the chance to overcome it if needed.

One of the ways we make decisions is by using the most “readily available information”. The recurrence of a piece of information in our minds makes it a strong probability that we will make a choice considering this information. A classic example of that is a study from Hastie & Park asking a group of people if the letter K appears more often as the first letter of a word or as the third. Most people answered the first when actually it is the third. The reason for that is this information is more available in our minds as we think more about words where the K comes as the first letter.

“Preconceived ideas and stereotypes” is other way to make a decision. A study from Tversky & Kahneman can perfectly illustrate this way. They asked a group of people to decide if a student from University X (where 80% of the students were studying humanities) was either a computer science student or a humanities student based upon him being described as neat and tidy, dull, mechanical and a poor writer. Guess what? 95% of the group decided in favour of computer science, ignoring completely the base rate factor. The conclusion is that even if the frequency of two things is even we tend to make our decisions to meet our beliefs and stereotypes.

The “trapped feeling” is also a way to make decisions. Usually it happens in relationships or businesses. We feel that we have invested so much that we feel obliged to continue even if huge losses are involved. It is the false feeling that too much investment would be left if we withdraw.

Another way is the “fear of losses”. We are more inclined to say ‘no’ to risky decisions even if they can be more worthwhile unless the risk is to avoid a big potential loss. We are a lot more predisposed to look at losses as investments or costs. Makes it more bearable but delusional sometimes.

Next we have a “framed decision”. When your options are displayed in a way to trick your judgement. We naturally would go more for a product in the supermarket that says 80% fat free than 20% fat. It is just a different approach to present something so we are more susceptible to buy the idea. Another very famous example of this was when Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, read this statement to a cheering crowd in front of 10 Downing St. when he came back from seeing Hitler in Munich in 1938 and said: “My good friends this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace in our time.”

We all make decisions everyday and these are based upon our previous experiences or our knowledge or our preconceived notions or even preconceived wishes for the future outcome. Be aware of why you come to the decision you have made because by using the wrong concept it is possible to make a totally erroneous decision which ignores the obvious facts of the case and in hindsight is completely stupid. Be realistic and be alert so that you make balanced decisions.

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