Better Decision making – The Gita and Proust to our rescue!

Why do we often make the wrong decisions?

I came across an incredible insight from contemplating on a few messages in the Gita recently – it talks about the two powerful approaches we all have for connecting/ making decisions. The first is using discriminatory intelligence (buddhi in sanskrit) where we use our reasoning power to decide the right path forward. The second is the emotive aspect (manas in sanskrit) – where decisions are based on emotional considerations a (and yeah – we often then force fit a “rational” reason to support the decision!). And the awesome insight is that we use the wrong tool for the wrong context – flip it around and we should be ok.

So for instance – if an acquaintance’s relative dies, we use our discriminative facility and tell them exactly how to process this loss. We share quotes on the fragility and the fleetingness of life and provide ideas to help the person deal with the loss. Chances often are that the person is not in the right frame to take this piece of advice – they are too emotionally wrought – and we end up not connecting at all.

Now, when we are faced with a similar disaster, we use emotive reasoning instead of the discriminatory one. We play the scene over and over in our minds and bring up emotions of anger, guilt, denial – we struggle to move on with life for a very, very long time.

Our ancient wisdom seems to say – why not flip this around? In the first case, use some emotional connect – put yourself in the person’s shoes and you’ll know what they feel like. And your response can be based on their nature (some will want to be alone, some would want a listener as they vent their frustration, some would just want a shoulder to cry on). In short, you are bringing in some empathy.

And when dealing with disasters at home, using the buddhi may be more helpful. This requires a complete acceptance of what has happened and how one feels (Sad/ helpless etc) and then permit oneself to “without blame” process the pain/ grieve/ provide any other outlets as much as required. The acceptance of the situation and directly feeling the emotion will bring some peace at the end as we close out unresolved questions.

For such large scenarios, this makes sense. But how then can we decide in the case of smaller everyday decisions – which situation calls for which response? I guess Proust has an answer in his “impartial observer”. Proust recommends that we imagine an impartial observer by our side at all times – and we ask ourselves what will he do? And when we do that, the impartial observer can pick the right response from the above – and that can lead to some progress.

Would you agree with this approach?

Emailing etiquette!

Imagine this. Two people are speaking to each other. A heated conversation is underway. And fifteen of us are standing around, hanging on every word – at the same time wondering why we are there in the first place for the conversation has no worthwhile import for any of us! Now imagine that we employ an even more insidious tool for this mass eves-dropping exercise. We keep recorders close to the conversationalists and listen from our rooms. One of the folks having the conversation (the listener) is actually oblivious to all of us – she doesn’t know we are listening in.

Now transpose this scene to the cyber-world and presto we are bang in the world of cc and its more invisible cousin the bcc. Welcome to the world of emails – and very bad manners (at least if undertaken in the physical world!)!

I just don’t get it – not after over a decade of seeing this behavior time and again. To understand the irrationality of it all though, you need to transpose it to the real life:

  1. Lets say you have a party organized for your friends. Chances are you will call them/ check schedules and invite just the folks who will make it a super day. Now look at how we do our calendar invites in the eworld – we many a time don’t check if someone is available, whether its an appropriate time (since it’s a global village, chances are the status meeting is actually at midnight for someone somewhere in the world!) or if the addressees are really required (hey its free anyway right -if they don’t want, they don’t have to make it!). Many a hapless soul wanders from meeting to meeting with no clue of whats really happening and why he is in the loop! In this case, all those wander are lost!

 

  1. Or think about when some work is over-due. In the real world, you probably will walk over and let the person know. Maybe you will get him and his leader/ someone who’s an expert together and discuss the way forward. You are not likely to get 10 random “senior” folks across the globe countries into a room (and periodically scream an update no one cares about over the loudspeaker!)). If you tried something like this in your school years, you may have been ostracized for life!

 

  1. Or take the note with the restricted rights (and addressed just to you). It’s like someone sending you a confidential document delivered by hand – letting you read it (while they are watching from behind – and locking it in your desk – and most importantly taking the key back with her. What will it do for trust?

I guess, with email being free and all – and with many of the earlier adopters not realizing the unacceptability of some of these practices – they have flourished. And now, its so pervasive – almost part of tradition – so we don’t stop to think about whether its appropriate.

 

But deep down when something like this happens, there’s a twinge in the heart. And a little voice cries out that maybe we changed a behaviour or two. The easiest way to validate if that voice is right is to transpose the situation to a physical world scenario – if it doesn’t seem appropriate, time to change it. You agree?