Next time you are stuck, ask yourself the basic question, “What would I tell a friend?” By reframing choices as advice to friends, we are able to distance ourselves from the emotions that cloud good judgment.
Dan Ariely, a cognitive neuroscientist at Duke University, explains how emotions can blind:
“In one experiment we told people, ‘Imagine you went to your doctor and the doctor recommended a very expensive treatment. You’ve been seeing this doctor for 10 years. Would you go for a second opinion?’ Most people said ‘no.’ We asked another group to imagine a friend in the same situation. Would they recommend that a friend seek out a second opinion? Most people said ‘yes.’”
This suggests that when we think about other people, we take our emotions out of the picture and are able to recommend something more useful—such as going for a second opinion.
We tend to think of ourselves as rational creatures but science proves otherwise. In truth, we behave irrationally all the time. For example, we buy things we don’t even want just because they are on sale.
When fear drives decisions, we are particularly vulnerable to behaving irrationally. The weight a person gives to a scenario—flood, fire, winning the lottery—should depend on its likelihood. In fact, it depends on how easily it can be envisaged. People will pay more for air travel insurance against “terrorist acts” than against death from “all possible causes”.
It makes no sense. We miscalculate risk and are easily swayed by anxiety-provoking information. Emotion trumps reason again and again.
Your assignment: inject a little cold logic into your day-to-day by pretending you are giving advice to a friend. It’s amazing what a little perspective can do.