The Benefits of Mixed Emotions (podcast)

The Hidden Brain podcast hosted by Shankar Vedantam uncovers helpful insights. This interview with Psychologist Naomi Rothman is timely as mixed emotions cloud major decisions during these most uncertain of times. Mixed emotions can delay decisive, if not seemingly impulsive actions, to improve fact-gathering and allow for consensus-building.

Naomi shares a story about moving to a beautiful, countryside home with her husband after being a lifelong rent-paying city dweller. They romanticized homeownership in an idyllic setting. As soon as the first opportunity came, they went full throttle but lasted in rural America for only a few years. Mixed emotions would have triggered more fact-finding, but they were afraid to acknowledge their initial hesitation and made an impulsive decision. It seems impulsive decisions are happening even more during this pandemic era. Change involves taking more risks, even it seems out of desperation.

From a work perspective, the research cited here shows how mixed emotions yield more thoughtful and drawn-out action plans with your teams. When I lived in Japan, every decision required group consensus. It took months for my Japanese client to overcome mixed emotions about work projects. The results ended up being quite good, as a competing multinational institution (with a top-down leadership style) was far more agile, took greater risks, and ended up faring worse with Japanese customers. The local customers preferred slower product releases, to begin with.

A mentor of mine in Japan once told me that the best thing to do was “nothing” when I was going through conflicting emotions. He told me to wait it out after my first year in Japan instead of getting entangled with office politics. That advice turned out to be what I needed as I lasted two more years in Japan.

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