We talk about logical and emotional as opposing one another... and that *feels* illogical to me.
How many personality quizzes have you taken (I’ve long been obsessed with them) where you’ve been asked some version of the following:
“I tend to be more practical and logical when making decisions, rather than making decisions based on personal feelings or emotions.”
Well, I have, and the more I think about it, the more I want to interrogate and unsettle this way of thinking. A way of thinking, I might add, that I’ve seen largely unproblematized and consistently reaffirmed.
In case it wasn’t already clear, I don’t believe it to be logical when making decisions to do so without using or considering one’s capacity to feel, interpret, and harness human emotions, whether they be our own or those of others. Our capacity to be rational and emotional is fundamental to what makes the human experience truly human. We know that animals and non-human species on our planet have emotional capacities (apes, dolphins, and elephants are particularly emotionally literate in addition to being cute and emotionally evocative to watch videos of), but the ability we are afforded to integrate our unique emotional impulses and experiences into the rational mechanisms we are equipped with in order to think and make decisions is unique to each of us, and is what makes me, me, and what makes you, you. I believe this is what makes you exceptional. To remove this from our conception of practicality seems counter-intuitive.
To consider an unemotional decision practical seems to make the case for decision-making that is unexceptional.
What is emotional intelligence?
It was first conceived of by two researchers — Peter Salavoy and (no, not that) John Mayer. The concept was popularlized in a book penned by Dan Goleman, and is roughly defined as:
The awareness “that emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively and negatively), and learning how to manage those emotions — both our own and others — especially when we are under pressure.”
- The Institute for Health and Human Potential (IHHP)
Human beings are some of the most emotionally intelligent lifeforms our planet has seen, at least as far as we know, and Emotional Intelligence (EI) can, and should, drive our behaviour and the impact we can have on the people in our lives.
Essentially, here’s what I’m trying to say: those who we see as outwardly emotional, whose hearts are publicly evident as residing on their sleeves, and who tend to highlight the emotional rewards and consequences of a particular decision or direction, are almost always seen as being impractical and illogical people.
I firmly believe it illogical to discount human emotional rewards and consequences within discussions and decision-making processes, and that our widely accepted notions of pragmatism, practicality, and logic have failed to account for how they make people feel.
Consequently, I believe our decision-making suffers as a result, as people often strive to be viewed as ruthlessly practical and resultingly attempt to squander emotional consideration. I think this is a shame. Your emotional capacity is an asset. Use it wisely!
I don’t feel I’m able to make a logical decision (that is, what decision I can make that will most likely produce the outcome I am looking for) within my personal relationships that does not account for how they will make me feel and make other people feel.
Making people happy, making people laugh, making people feel comfortable—these are all core to how I conceive of my own success and purpose—but are all drivers to my decision-making processes that are likely be deemed impractical.
Robots take in information, put them through algorithms and structured processes, and act accordingly. I believe it practical for human beings to strive to make decisions at a level above what robots are typically capable of, and while I’m aware of advances made within AI to this end in recent years, I still believe we can strive to outperform these terrifying artificial thinkers when making human decisions.
To discount those beautifully emotional and vulnerable thinkers and decision-makers in our lives as impractical is a disservice to those people (and their capacity to use emotionally intelligent tools they’ve been privileged to possess, and in many cases, have nurtured), and is a disservice to people, institutions, and organizations that rely on decision-making that strives to be independent of considering emotional impacts.
Sometimes, you can, and maybe even should, make decisions without a deep consideration of your personal emotions. I, for example, am sometimes made sad by the decision to do homework, but do it for the longterm goal of completing my education and getting good grades.
This decision, however, is no more practical than the decision to write in a journal instead of doing homework in order to clear my head, nor is it more logical than the decision to redirect your route home in order to walk with a friend who could use the company, even though it’s going to ‘cost’ you an illogical 30 minutes of study time in the middle of exams.
And if we do truly believe these emotionally-informed decisions to be impractical, I think we ought to reassess what we believe our purpose to be.
To be emotional and to be practical are not two mutually exclusive ways of being, and I struggle to understand how we’ve gotten to a place where they are constantly presented as such.
So, shout-out to the best human beings I know, who are fearlessly emotional and are simultaneously wildly practical. Thank you for your vulnerability, and for accounting for the human when there is a growing tendency or propensity to remove it.
I see you, I celebrate you, and I will always look to you for advice, because I value your brain as a practical juggernaut.