Decision making mistakes aren’t always the end of the world. Sometimes bad decisions lead us to our greatest growth. It’s part of the whole “fail fast” movement first popularized by sales expert Tom Peters and explored in articles like this one by John Donohue in the New Yorker. The basic idea is that the faster we do things, the faster we learn what works and what doesn’t.
Part of the fail fast equation involves making decisions fast, too. That can be all fine and dandy when we have our wits about us. But when short term emotions like anger, resentment, and even love are fueling our decisions, you might as well be holding sticks of dynamite next to a lit match. With heightened emotion in play, we have to work extra hard to avoid the following 5 mistakes that can have long term consequences we’d rather never face:
Mistake #1: Hitting “send” immediately after a brain dump into an email or text.
It’s fine to write out all that you want to say to someone “in the heat of the moment.” Venting is healthy and often recommended by mental health experts as a viable means of letting go of stress and finding your zen. Just don’t hit send immediately after your rant is over and in writing. A general rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours after writing your thoughts and then coming back to them only once you’ve cooled down and things aren’t as charged. I happen to be partial to waiting 48-72 hours, but that’s just me. This is where the delete button or a wood burning fire place can come in handy.
Mistake #2: Meeting someone we have to have an unpleasant conversation with on their territory.
Never, ever decide to meet someone on their turf if you know the conversation could be intense. Having strangers around you — preferably in a big, noisy restaurant without a lot of mirrors and bar stools — can be one of the best neutralizing agents for a situation that could go south quickly. Neutral zones make for civil conversations, unless a lot of alcohol is served. Then anything’s possible, and you’re on your own.
Mistake #3: Avoiding asking the tough questions in order to preserve the illusion of “peace.”
Deciding to avoid an unpleasant situation or not get all the facts straight through careful questions can be disastrous. When we make decisions with incomplete or faulty information, things can be said and done that never needed to be said and done in the first place, leading to hurt feelings, confusion, even death, which, last time I checked, is rarely a goal.
Mistake #4: Pretending something isn’t happening when it is.
Staying silent and hiding out from the truth doesn’t usually turn out well. If you’ve seen even one episode of Law and Order, you know this is the case. Eventually, someone somewhere is going to find out what’s really going on and tell Olivia Benson about it. And they won’t be sending you a bouquet of flowers and a thank you card when they do.
Mistake #5: Calling 1-800-Lawyer
It’s never a good day when a lawyer’s called. While necessary in extreme situations like wrongful death or embezzlement, handling problems behind the shield of an attorney wastes time and money for both sides. The only winner in a lawsuit is the lawyer. If this route is chosen, be prepared for a lot of headache, heartache, and outright misery as you watch your bank account evaporate.
I realize a list like this reflects common sense, which is what’s always missing when emotions are running high. The next time you find yourself hot under the collar, fed up, or plain old mad about something or someone, watch a funny video on YouTube for 5 minutes and see how you feel after a good belly laugh. (If the Internet’s good for one thing, it’s providing an endless amount of free entertainment.)
I’ve found whatever had me ready to swing a sledge hammer no longer matters after Jim Gaffigan’s bit on seafood. See if you can make a bad decision after what he says about lobster and oysters.