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  • Tamar Balkin

Can We Bring More Confidence Into Our Decision-Making?

“You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.”


Joan Brandwyn  Mona Lisa Smile

(Mona Lisa Smile is Now Showing on Netflix)


 

A movie, not a song??

I drew inspiration this week from a headline, a movie, and International Women's Day. 

Of course, there is music, so please click here for my 2024 International Women’s Day playlist.

 

Scan of  The Australian March 2-3 2024, pg 18


 

“It’s infuriating to see double standards in the workplace.  Our company talks about diversity and inclusion but in reality, they are paying lip service. There is a culture in which people want respect for their decisions regarding parenting and work, but they don’t respect alternative perspectives.” 


Coaching client.

 

It saddens but doesn’t surprise me that there is real pressure on women to make particular life choices when it comes to having and raising a family. There is judgment and unsolicited advice from the moment a woman announces her pregnancy. The pressure self-imposed or otherwise on making the “perfect” decision is an enormous unnecessary stress on top of the actual challenges of looking after another human being. Undoubtedly, there are situations where there is the belief that the family has no choice.  


 


“We fumble through doing our best, in the belief that the decisions we make to work or look after kids or both are the best ones… but to demean any of these choices as false is obnoxious”


Janet Albrechsten


 

What does the research say about our decision-making processes?


Researchers have found that choice behaviour is the result of two motivational processes, one more deliberate and focused on wider objectives and the other more instinctive, heavily influenced by emotions. Challenging decisions, which have implications for a person’s well-being or their social relationships, can involve conflict between reason and emotion. Often these complex decisions relate to the person’s sense of identity and purpose.


Both reason and emotion can provide wisdom in decision-making. Reasoning tends to adopt an intellectual position to the problem and facilitates people to anticipate the potential benefits and costs of a problem.  Yet there is also evidence to suggest that people value gains and losses differently, typically interpreting losses as causing a greater emotional impact than the equivalent positive gain.


Emotions tend to reflect the excitement or fears associated with the possible outcomes of a decision. They also reflect the significance of a decision and the ultimate meaning the decision has for a person’s life. Researchers have found that when a person experiences difficulty identifying, acknowledging, or managing the emotions attached to a complex decision, their decision-making is at risk of being reactive, short-sighted, self-defeating, or even harmful to them or others. Whilst emotions bring an added level of complexity to the decision-making process, researchers have found that they may assist a person to reach a more adaptive decision than would be possible by intellectual reasoning alone.


Social context increases the complexity, as the advice or influence of significant others may affect both decision outcomes and the process of reaching them. At times though, people will experience a conflict between a decision that might be beneficial for others, but come at a cost to themselves, and vice versa. In addition, the expectations that people have about how others will perceive and interpret their decisions can cause additional difficulties.


The complexity of decision-making isn't solely determined by the potential outcomes but also by the significance individuals attach to them and how they may be judged by others. 


What impacts our confidence in our decisions?


 

 

“A wealth of research has investigated how the decisions people make and the subsequent outcomes affect people’s emotional well-being and life satisfaction. Put simply, when people feel empowered and make decisions that result in positive outcomes, they feel better about themselves and their life, and experience greater psychological wellbeing.”


Dr James McCue


 

The literature about perceived social support indicates that people who experience decision-making in a supportive context have a higher decisional competence and lower decisional conflict. Social Support can provide a buffer against stress and negative emotions. In this sense, it is possible that people experiencing a desirable level of social support would be more confident in their choices in life and even more satisfied, as they are reinforced and supported by their loved ones. 


 

“How great would it be if respect was reciprocated?”

Janet Albrechtsen


 

How can we make good decisions?


Regular readers know that complex decision-making requires the following:


  • Generate options, without judgement or assumptions. The more options the better the decision-making quality.

  • Conduct detailed research of the options, on an intellectual, and emotional level.  

  • Define personal values, beliefs, priorities, finances, and lifestyle.

  • List the people who will be impacted by your decision and discuss your options with them. Clarify any assumptions.

  • Evaluate options, according to your values, beliefs priorities, finances, lifestyle and impacted parties.  

  • Take your time and ponder. Repeat any of the above steps if you feel uncertain.

  • Select and commit to an option.


There is evidence to indicate that complex decision-making requires an understanding of all of the above, not simply the pros and cons list. Researchers have found that awareness of the downside of a situation enables troubleshooting either in the moment or in advance. Understanding the reasons behind one's choices fosters courage to face practical challenges and societal criticisms proudly. Taking control of a decision eliminates submissive behaviour and promotes self-sufficiency. Every decision carries some irreversible consequences, prompting consideration of how to navigate them effectively. Over time, increasing confidence in one's decisions encourages others to make sensible choices. Additionally, maintaining unconditional positive regard for the choices of others enables them to live according to their values.


 

What is the role of the leader?


  • Understand best practices in decision-making.

  • Encourage staff to make informed choices.

  • Show respect for their choices.

  • Be clear on your scope of control, their scope of control and areas of influence.

  • Define the actual job requirements, deliverables, values and ethics in terms of the individual team, organisation, stakeholder and external market forces. 

  • Encourage the employee to be clear on the impact of their decision on others both inside and outside the firm.

  • Discuss how their plan will be implemented.

 


Mental health


Researchers have found that parenthood can negatively impact mental health.


Approximately 15–20 per cent of women in Australia are affected by anxiety and depression that may occur during pregnancy or the postnatal period.   


Regular readers would know that work–family conflict, occurs when the demands from work or family are ‘mutually incompatible’ and impacts significant proportions of the population in the US, Europe, Canada and Australia. Researchers have found that WFC generates strains and compromises in family life. Long and inflexible schedules, demanding, intensive work, unpredictable work times or a lack of autonomy cause deficits in parental time, and emotional and cognitive energy that impede their capacity for caregiving. There are also adverse workplace consequences, with WFC impacting work performance, productivity, burnout and job turnover.


On a positive note, researchers have found that improving or resolving WFC improves parents' mental health. In addition, regular readers would know that the psychological benefits of work can be found in motherhood (click here for my blog).


Final Thoughts


Even with thorough research and preparation, complex decisions often require delving into the unknown. Over time, changes in life circumstances and values may influence the outcome of a decision. Researchers have found that regular exploration of decision-making is highly beneficial. 


Whilst the focus of this blog was work and parenting, the principles of decision-making apply to many contexts. My clients often find it useful in coaching to explore how they can strive to make decisions that bring comfort and pride when navigating the intricacies of career, life, leadership and psychological well-being.

 

References: 


Cooklin, A.R., Dinh, H., Strazdins, L., Westrupp, E., Leach, L.S. and Nicholson, J.M. (2016). Change and stability in work–family conflict and mothers’ and fathers’ mental health: Longitudinal evidence from an Australian cohort. Social Science & Medicine, 155, pp.24–34.




Nothing ‘false’ about my choice to be a stay-at-home mum.  Janet Albrechtsen,  March 2-3 2024. The Australian pg 18


‌Milkie, M.A., Nomaguchi, K.M. and Denny, K.E. (2015). Does the Amount of Time Mothers Spend With Children or Adolescents Matter? Journal of Marriage and Family, [online] 77(2), pp.355–372. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12170.


www.imdb.com. (n.d.). Mona Lisa Smile (2003) - Quotes - IMDb. [online] Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0304415/quotes/.


‌van den Bos, K. (2009). Making Sense of Life: The Existential Self Trying to Deal with Personal Uncertainty. Psychological Inquiry, 20(4), pp.197–217. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/10478400903333411.


‌Savioni, L., Triberti, S., Durosini, I. and Pravettoni, G. (2022). How to Make Big decisions: a cross-sectional Study on the Decision Making Process in Life Choices. Current Psychology, [online] 42. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-022-02792-x.


Black Dog Institute (n.d.). What is perinatal depression? [online] Available at: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Depression-during-pregnancy.pdf.



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