How do I make a rational decision and not an emotional one?

What a terribly difficult and possibly unhelpful question to ask. Let's get something very important out of the way first. Your emotions are vital to give you an insight into what you are willing or able to cope with and to flag issues that are more important to you than you immediately might credit. For instance, your mother might elicit some seriously overwhelming emotions from you when you receive a perceived insult. However, how much of that emotion is an artifact of a complicated relationship, and how much of it is reflective of her manipulative ways, her lack of insight or a real intent to harm you? How do you then deal with the fall out of this incident.

What is a better question then? One that directs your thoughts in a more constructive way. I usually speak to clients about their tendency to discard their judgement just because their emotions are strong. While feelings of stress and anxiety can cloud our judgement, that does not necessarily mean your emotions aren't flagging a real issue. The real problem is the emotional amplification of that issue and how that might blind a client to the truth inherent to that reaction. Following on from the previous example, does the client's reaction to her mother's perceived insult really point to her mother's intent to harm in that specific situation or to an ingrained habit of communicating that needs to be addressed.

Emotions are the flag that marks the area where your rational mind would be well served to intervene. Unfortunately, the flag has been planted in deep soil, and it is your responsibility to check each layer that has been plunged through before making a decision to react (unless of course you're at immediate physical threat or are being directly abused in some emotional way, such as name-calling or character assassination). The best way to do this is ask twice "Why does this make me angry/anxious/scared". Once for the immediately obvious reason, twice for "that Other Reason" that might help you deliver your reaction in a more measured way to the person you are trying to communicate with.

What is your "Other Reason"? How can you let this delay your immediate response and think a little deeper and soothe that anger? More in next week's blog.