If you are like me, when it comes to making decisions, you would tend to overthink. 

Should I choose this or that? Which one is better for me? Do it now or later? Is it the right thing to do? What does my gut feeling tell me? OK, let’s not be emotional here, what do the facts say? What is the probability of X happening? What happens if it didn’t work out? What happens if it did work out?

Too many questions… and not as many answers. 

If you are not like me, then lucky you! I am a little jealous. 

Got an important decision to make?

There are two types of decisions.

  1. Life-changing decisions
  2. Non-life-changing decisions

So, here is the thing. When it comes to non-life-changing decisions, it’s fine if you slipped. I mean life will go on. 

However, when it comes to a life-changing decision, the consequences of a bad decision would hit you hard. Recovery could cost you a lot of time, money and energy. You might want to take your time and hold it off if you are:

  1. Sad
  2. Distracted
  3. Sleep-deprived
  4. High on caffeine 

Some of the above reasons might seem pretty obvious and some not so much. Either way, I will share with you why you might want to stay away from making an important decision given those 4 states of mind. 

1. Sad

Sad could be the obvious one. 

Think about it. It’s pretty common when a friend of yours goes through a breakup, she comes to you and tells you she might want to try crazy stuff. 

“I am done with this. I am going to quit my job,” she says. “Alright, alright. Hold on. You broke up, what does your job has to do with this?” you tell her. She insists. She watches “Eat, Pray and Love” and decides she wants to travel the world and disappear. Okay, maybe she has the means to do it, but is it the right thing for her? Maybe yes, maybe not. The bottom line is she is not in the right state of mind to make this decision now. 

… and here is why. 

If you are a sad buyer, you would be willing to pay more. If you are sad seller, you would be willing to sell for less. 

“A recent study conducted by social scientist Jennifer Lerner and her colleagues investigated how emotions such as sadness can deeply affect people’s buying — and selling — behaviours, and provided some interesting insights into this phenomenon.

The researchers hypothesised that the experience of sadness motivates people to alter their circumstances, which might help them change their mood. They also thought that this motivation would affect buyers and sellers in different ways: sad buyers would be willing to pay a higher price for a given item than neutral buyers, whereas sad sellers would part with the same item for a lower price than neutral sellers.

In an experiment designed to test these ideas, the researchers induced either sadness or no emotion in their participants by having them view one of two film clips. Those assigned to the sadness-inducing condition watched a clip from the film The Champ, which featured the death of a boy’s mentor; following that, they were asked to write a brief paragraph about how they’d feel if they’d been in the situation portrayed. Those assigned to the no-emotion condition watched an emotionally neutral film clip featuring fish and then wrote about their day-today activities. Afterwards, all participants were told that they were about to take part in a second, unrelated study. Half of the participants were given a set of highlighters and asked to set a price at which to sell them; the other half were asked to set a price at which they would buy them.

The results supported Lerner’s assertions. Sad buyers were willing to purchase the item for around 30 percent more than were emotionally neutral buyers. And sad sellers were willing to part with the item for around 33 percent less than were their emotionally neutral counterparts. What’s more, the researchers found that the carryover of the emotion from the film into their economic decisions occurred completely outside the subjects’ awareness — they had no idea they had been so deeply affected by these residual feelings of sadness.”* 

2. Distracted

I guess we are constantly distracted — and sometimes I think there is no escape from distraction. In fact, today, I needed some peace, so I put my phone an airplane mode and came to work on my computer. Again, I got some notifications on my laptop… More distractions. I can’t work without the Internet though. I close all the social media tabs. Then, guess what? I get all the Chrome notifications. 

Incredible. The amount of distractions we get is incredible. 

Some of us think that we are can multitask. “I am so efficient,” you think. I have got some news for you my friend.

Multitasking actually slows you down. It also makes you more prone to error. 

“When people try to perform two or more related tasks either at the same time or alternating rapidly between them, errors go way up, and it takes far longer — often double the time or more — to get the jobs done than if they were done sequentially,” says David E. Meyer, Director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. 

When you alternate between tasks, the brain restarts each time to focus on the new task. 

Not only does multitasking slow you down, but it distracts you… and do you know what happens when you get distracted?

You make bad decisions… and here is why. 

Being distracted makes you more likely to be persuaded, where you would agree on making a purchase that perhaps, you didn’t plan on in the first place.

“Research conducted by Barbara Davis and Eric Knowles found that homeowners were twice as likely to purchase Christmas cards from a door-to-door salesperson when the salesperson distracted them by unexpectedly announcing the price in pennies — rather than the usual dollars — before stating, ‘It’s a bargain!’ Their studies also show that it wasn’t simply stating the price in pennies which increased the sales rate: the rate of compliance with the sales pitch was higher than for a standard appeal only when the price was followed by the persuasive statement ‘It’s a bargain!’ The findings reveal that it’s during this instant of momentary distraction that the salesperson can slip a persuasive assertion under the radar. *

3. Sleep-deprived

I don’t know about you, but I get super cranky when I haven’t slept well. 

Cranky though isn’t the reason why being sleep-deprived impacts your decision-making process… and here is how. 

When you are sleep-deprived, you are more likely to believe false statements. In other words, you can easily be fooled.

“But work done by social psychologist Daniel Gilbert offers an insight that’s less obvious but is completely consistent with the experiences of the political prisoner: we may be more susceptible to others’ deceptive influence tactics when we are tired.

In a series of studies, Gilbert has found evidence supporting the hypothesis that upon hearing someone else make a statement, the recipient of the message immediately accepts it as true, regardless of whether it is really. It is only with mental effort that, a fraction of a second later, the listener recognises a statement to be false and then rejects it.

When the stakes are high, people usually have enough cognitive resources and motivation to reject statements that sound false. But when people are tired, they’re likely to be in a heightened state of gullibility because of the diminished cognitive energy and motivation that exhaustion produces. According to Gilbert’s findings, the consequence is that the message comprehension process gets cut off before the rejection stage ever has a chance to take place, making people in this situation more likely to believe others’ weak arguments or downright falsehoods. For example, a manager soliciting bids for a big distribution contract would be less likely to question an unlikely statement made by a potential distributor such as ‘Our distribution systems are top-rated globally’ when operating on little sleep. Instead, he or she is more likely to take this statement at face value.” * 

4. High on caffeine 

That one is the odd one, at least for me. 

I was surprised that the level of caffeine intake impacts the decision-making process… and here is how.

Unlike sleep-deprivation though, being high-on caffeine would still make you detect false arguments or illogical ones. Still, they do make you more inclined to agree if you have just heard a sound argument. 

How caffeine can make us feel more alert, but how can it make us more persuasive?

To investigate the question, scientist Pearl Martin and her colleagues first asked all their participants to drink a product resembling orange juice. Like a mischievous teen adding the contents of his flask to the punch bowl at the school disco, the researchers spiked the orange drink before serving it to half of their research subjects. Rather than turning the orange drink into a tequila sunrise, however, the researchers spiked the drink with caffeine — approximately the amount you might find in two cups of espresso.

Shortly after drinking the juice, all the participants read a series of messages containing very good arguments for a certain position on a controversial issue. Those who had consumed the caffeinated beverages prior to reading these arguments were 35 percent more favourably disposed towards that position than were those who drank the unadulterated drink.

Does this mean that you could walk down to the nearest coffee shop on your lunch break and sell the Brooklyn Bridge to any one of the patrons there? Hardly. In a second study, the researchers also tested the effect of caffeine when participants read messages containing weak arguments. The results showed that under these circumstances caffeine has little persuasive power.” *

I would say take the caffeine tip to your advantage, and when you want to ask your boss for something, offer them coffee. 😉 

Read 5 Consumer behavior tips you can use with your boss 

* Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion by Noah Goldstein ,Robert B. Professor Cialdini, Steve J. Martin

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