It’s it the nature of humans: we try to analyze and interpret certain situations and behaviors of other people we interact with every day. This makes perfect sense and is important in order to get an orientation in the world/ system we live in. Besides, our brain loves order and rationality.
Unfortunately, our brain also tends to overinterpret things a lot as we are not purely rational species but are also driven by our emotions and feelings. One of our strongest feelings, for exampel, is anxiety-if we fear losing something, we act more emotionally than rationally. We can easily misinterpret situations in such a state of mind and overlook important aspects. A good example are relationships. Men and women often get stuck in what I call a “toxic relationship”-both are not satisfied with the other partner any longer, even after long discussions (let it be because of a shift of needs or change of personality traits) but decide to stay together and accept the discontentment because of the fear of being alone. The emotion of anxiety hinders our brain to think rationally and assess the situation and possible outcomes of our actions in a realistic way.
Another good example is an unsatisfying job. A completely rational person would see that their current job is strictly monotonic, isn’t fulfilling and/or is very stressful and steals valuable time of their life. A completely rational person would not only realize that but also take actions in order to change the situation instead of staying in the same miserbale position for years and years. A person on the other hand who is driven by fear, would stay in that position-probably for the rest of their working life out of pure fear to get unemployed for a longer period of time and lose all their savings. If you fear, you get stuck!
Another fact is that most people have horror scenarios in their head and hate risk. We tend to create worst case scenarios when we encounter risk and change instead of seing the possibilities. That’s because people would rather eliminate the risk of loss rather than keeping the possibility of gain.
Having said this, I belive I found a technique for myself which can be helpful for others, too to overcome the risk of misinterpretation and bad decisions stemming from negative emotions.
I called it the Bird’s Eye View. When you see the whole situation and take a step back from the problem, you see more than when you look very close at it.
1. Ask yourself the question: is this problem relevant right now, is it relevant in a month, a year? If it’s only a short-term problem it doesnt deserve tremendous, time-consuming long-term planning before making a decision.
2. Are you in charge of the problem-can influence it? Many times we spend hours and hours lamenting about things we can’t change-the weather, our tax bill, the success of our favorite football team…nevertheless, it doesn’t stop us to wrap our head around it a hundert times. Is it worth your energy? As a business graduate, I would say the alternative costs are simply too high to complain about things you can’t change. Realize and let go ot these energy thefts – knowing that these things aren’t wasting your time and energy is very fulfilling.
3. Be aware of the costs, possibilities and risks! Know the emotions which are involved! When you know which emotions are involved in certain situations you can assess them and see problems from a more realistic way without the cloudy fog of confusing emotions in it. If you know that fear is the prevailing emotion, you can ask yourself-what is the real cost and risk if I initiate the change anyways? What is the wors-case scenario and is it really unchangeable afterwards? Breaking risk down to worse-case scenarios and contrast them with opportunities, often reveal that the main reason for our fear are not the possible bad outcomes but simply the fear of change.
Anticipated fear is oftentimes worse than the manifestation of that fear.