The secret to making smarter decisions that aren’t swayed by your current emotions — particularly when your emotions are unrelated to the decision at hand — could lie in emotional intelligence, according to a new study.
For instance, “people are driving and it’s frustrating. They get to work and the emotions they felt in their car influences what they do in their offices. Or they invest money based on emotions that stem from things unrelated to their investments,” study researcher Stéphane Côté, a professor in the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said in a statement. “But our investigation reveals that if they have emotional intelligence, they are protected from these biases.”
Emotional intelligence is a term used in psychology to signal the ability to identify and control both your and others’ emotions, and to apply that ability to certain tasks, according to Psychology Today.
For the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers conducted several experiments to evaluate how different levels of emotional intelligence influence decision-making. In one experiment, researchers found that anxiety’s effect on a decision involving risk — when that anxiety was unrelated to the decision at hand — seemed to be blocked in people with high emotional intelligence. For people with low emotional intelligence, on the other hand, anxiety seemed to influence the decision-making.
The researchers said that emotional intelligence can likely help you stop any emotions — not just negative ones, like stress and anxiety, but also good ones, like excitement — from influencing unrelated decisions.
“People who are emotionally intelligent don’t remove all emotions from their decision-making,” Côté said in the statement. “They remove emotions that have nothing to do with the decision.”
Indeed, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research also showed that emotional intelligence could play a role in decision-making by helping people realize their emotions can sway the choices they make.