One of the most interesting things about the way our minds work is the way that we make decisions. We do this every day – we have to decide between one thing and another thing and there is some internal mechanism that allows us to do that.
Sometimes this mechanism works really well and we make a great decision. And sometimes the result is not so good. You know the decisions I’m talking about. All the exercise equipment you bought and never used. The clothes you bought that you never wear. The things that seemed like a good idea at the time, which you regret later.
And there are other sorts of decisions – the ones we make most unconsciously. A sort of decision like: do I eat the chocolate cake or do I eat a salad? Do I go and do some exercise or do I sit in front of the television? The results to these sorts of decisions are not always entirely what we hoped. And a big part of that is down to how we think about the decision.
How do we compare the options?
The moment of decision
In the moment of decision we have to choose between the options to select what is best for us. So most decisions involve some sort of comparison. Should I buy the brown shoes or the black ones? Which car is most comfortable / looks best / sounds best / is fastest / is most economical? We tend to compare some aspect of each experience and choose the option that comes out best for that aspect.
For example, if you look at the choice between a piece of chocolate cake or a salad and you make the choice based on a picture of the chocolate cake and how that feels and a picture of the salad and how that feels – if you do the decision in this way the chocolate cake will always win.
However if you compare these in a slightly different way, focusing on a different aspect of the experience, you get a different outcome. Suppose you were to fast-forward each of the images until you see where they lead and then compare those images. For example, the chocolate cake fast-forwards to a picture of standing in front of the mirror feeling bloated. The salad can fast-forward to an entirely different picture. Now when you compare those pictures, the salad wins.
And that’s just one way in which how we make decisions impacts the results we get.
Channelling our decision-making
We don’t always make decisions with pictures though. Sometimes we talk about the two options with ourselves – we talk about one option then we talk about the other. How you talk about those things – the words you use, the tonality you use and how you express the words makes a tremendous difference in what you will decide.
There are other ways that our decisions can be affected because decision-making is a process.
In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) we call this process a ‘strategy’. There are many different ways that a strategy can be affected by other conditions which will ultimately affect the sort of decision we get and whether it’s a good decision or a bad decision.
But what makes a good decision good and the bad decision bad?
That’s something that is much more difficult to evaluate for most people. I would suggest that as a rough rule-of-thumb a good decision is one that gets you what you want in the bigger picture or in the longer term.
It’s important to look at utility from a broader perspective because how you frame the decision – whether you look at the chocolate cake or the consequences of the chocolate cake later on – affects how you move through the world. To make decisions you’ve got to know what you really want and that’s a whole other issue. I suggest that you evaluate your decisions from a broad enough perspective and find out if they really give you want you want in the long-run.
For those of you with NLP training, you’ve probably noticed that this article includes only two of the many ways to influence a person’s strategies. There are at least twelve easy ways to do this – and about twenty in total, without splitting hairs.
My challenge to you is to add your favourite way of influencing strategies in the comments section below. Care to play?NLP - Influencing Decision-Making by firstname.lastname@example.org