Introduction: There is a chronic pain resulting from making an erroneous decision that goes against one’s better judgment. It is one thing to take your best shot at a course of action and having it fail. That is just life. It is quite another if a failed course of action also goes against your better judgment. The decision continues to exert a price on the individual long after the physical situation has been resolved. There is never any guarantee that a decision can lead to an acceptable result, but using intuitive judgment and checking it when necessary can improve the chances.
Most decisions are relatively straightforward. An analysis of the facts reveals a direction for action. This type of rational analysis is sufficient for many decisions, particularly in business, where the consequences can be mitigated as the results unfold. However, there are some decisions that can never fit into this rational category. Sometimes, the problem is with the facts—they are insufficient, or cannot be known, or are so conflicting that no clear direction can be identified. At other times, the emotional or physical consequences are so great that the rational analysis alone cannot be trusted. An intuitive aspect is needed.
Two obvious situations when rational analysis may not be sufficient are business decisions that can affect the direction of the entire organization or, at home, actions that involve the well being of children.
In an earlier example, “Deciding to let a child travel alone”, the emphasis was on a general method to gauge whether the required skills, experience, and maturity were present to give this responsibility. If the baseline requirements are not met, there is no question that responsibility cannot be delegated. However, even if the skills are present, allowing that responsibility may not be the appropriate direction.
Actually, the real question in this example is when to let a child have responsibility (on mass transportation, at the mall, etc.). Sooner or later, these responsibilities will be given. In this case, the actual decision questions are: Is this the right time to allow this freedom? If not, what conditions have to change?
The decision to give a child such responsibility falls into the previously mentioned category of a case that rational analysis alone cannot be trusted and intuitive judgment can be used. Some people use it consciously and routinely; others hardly at all. Working with gut level intuitive judgment is a skill. It can be developed with practice and feedback. As the first step, immediately after having reviewed all of the available information, hold the information in the mind and take a deep breath or two. Then, note which decision direction is favored. There may very likely be no explanation for the result
The judgment itself may be right on target, or it may be off the mark, clouded with other issues such as emotions and personal experiences. The accuracy of the initial judgment doesn’t matter. It can be tested later. The important point is not to ignore the initial direction and act immeidately against your better judgment because of time or peer pressures.
A conflict between the facts and intuitive judgment does not indicate that the approach favored by the facts should be discarded, but that further examination is needed. Such a conflict does suggest that respected opinions should be sought. If possible, the opinion should come from an outside source not connected with the problem under consideration. Such an opinion provides a fresh perspective without emotional connections. After this outside opinion has been considered, the decision may very well overturn the intuitive direction and be to continue with the factual decision.
In the continuing example of giving responsibility to a child–if the decision is not to allow it now, the decision process also gives some insight into what has to change in order to ultimately allow the child the freedom to travel alone.
Better decisions result from an understanding based on rational analysis, intuitive perception, and an outside review. It may be the best that can be done, regardless of the outcome.