As much as we like to believe that we think alone, but when it comes to some important choices, we most certainly don’t. There are several factors and personal characteristics that impact our decision-making. At an individual level, what our perceptions are and what we perceive as needs and what we perceive as wants influence our choices.
Perception is the process by which individuals organise and interpret the information. In general, people’s behaviour is based on their perception of what reality is, and not on reality itself. It is possible that two people can interpret the same information differently.
Factors such as attitudes, expectations, motives, interests, and experiences further influence our perception. Such factors can greatly weigh our decisions even if you don’t know it. Hence, it affects our decision making process. Here is how.
Selective perception is when a decision-maker selectively interprets what to see on the basis of his or her interests, needs, background, experience and attitudes. As a result, one may only accept what they want to accept and hence focus only on such type of information.
Prejudice and bias are often the result of wrong perceptions that may cause us to make ineffective decisions. Our perceptions are highly subjective, so the information gets distorted in the way to make it consistent with our pre-established beliefs, attitudes and values. Wrong perceptions further lead to,
- Fundamental attribution error–This is the tendency to underestimate the influence of external factors and overestimate the influence of internal factors when making judgments about a situation or the behaviour of others.
- Hindsight bias– After an outcome is already known, believing it could have been accurately predicted beforehand.
- Self-serving bias–The tendency to attribute your success to internal factors while putting the blame for failure on external factors.
- Profiling–A kind of stereotyping in which judging someone on the basis of one’s perception of the group to which that person belongs.
- Halo effect— Drawing general impression about an individual based on a single characteristic.
- Randomness error-Creating meaning out of random events like superstitions.
Attitudes about risk and uncertainty:
Attitudes we develop partly due to certain personal characteristics and partly due to organisational characteristics lead to certain errors. Risk aversion is the tendency to prefer a sure gain over a risky outcome, even if the riskier outcome might have an expected payoff. Similarly, if the organisational policy is such that it penalises loss more than it rewards gains, then one would tend to avoid such alternatives that involve an element of risk. But if a person is highly intelligent, he or she may be more willing to take calculated risks if the potential rewards are large.
Sometimes, we set unrealistic expectations due to inaccurate information or due to preconceived notions. They distort our perception of reality and lead to ineffective decisions. When we have high expectations, we generally get more optimistic and are willing to make decisions even with less information. And those of us with low expectations of success require more and more information to decide upon a course of action. For instance, in performance evaluation, appraisals are often impacted by the preconceived expectations about their capabilities.
Perception of our Needs
NEEDS motivate human behaviour and they correspond to certain beliefs we have. For every habit we have, for every experience we go through over and over, for every pattern we repeat, there is NEED within us for it. Primary influences on our decisions and choices we make in our lives are often the perceptions we have of our needs and wants.
If there were not a need, we wouldn’t have it, do it, or be it. In other words we are always motivated by our needs. Both needs and wants represent the desired results we strive to achieve. They are important influences. Many times we might end up choosing a want over a need. We are often pushed and pulled in many directions with a need elevating the choice of one want over that of another want. Differentiating NEEDS from WANTS helps us to weigh our options more carefully by knowing what is influencing our decision.
NEEDS are different from WANTS
You may WANT your NEEDS, but more frequently, you end up wanting things that are not really associated with your needs. Needs are gaps in results and there is a satisfier to close those gaps. Needs have purpose and there are always multiple alternative satisfiers to any need.
WANTS are choices we make on the basis of what we believe is important. There is nothing wrong with wanting things. What is important is that we should be able to differentiate between our needs and our wants with their satisfiers in order to take better decisions. By focusing on what we want, we may miss the things we need most to meet our goals. The decisions we make are directly proportional to the needs we have to satisfy.
Understanding the nature of NEEDS
Some needs are instrumental and their existence depends on there being an end goal or purpose. They are gone once the goal is achieved. Some needs are absolutes. They just exist. For instance, you can never overcome a continual need for food, water and shelter. Understanding the nature of needs as whether they are absolutes or instrumental is important to recognise their implications on how we consider needs within our lives.
The needs at personal level might vary from absolutes to being instrumental. First, you must meet your basic-level needs ( such as food and shelter) then needs of safety (such as personal, financial, health and well-being) before you are motivated to focus on higher-level needs (such as belonging, creativity).
The needs at societal level to achieve our societal ambitions like well-being, survival, and quality of life are absolutes. Needs at organisational level are instrumental. Universal needs for competence, freedom, and psychological relatedness motivate our behaviour and these needs are absolutes. They are essential to our psychological health and well-being.
Here are some changes you can make to improve the quality of results you get from your decisions.
“The art of decision-making includes the art of questioning.”–Pearl ZhuTweet
Question your perceptions
Recognising that your perceptions aren’t the absolutes can help improve the effectiveness of your decisions. When you become aware that two people can see the same thing or have the same experience and draw different conclusions, you can take time to understand your own underlying motivations. Striving towards understanding yourself better allows you to have more accurate perception of yourself and your abilities. Questioning our perceptions is the simplest means through which we can improve the quality of your decisions.
Change your frame of reference
What we see depends mainly on what we look forJohn Lubbock
We all interpret what we see in terms of set of criteria or stated values in relation to which measurements or judgments can be made. Our perceptions inform the decisions that we make. So, If you think your perceptions are self-serving and are wrong, change your frame of reference. Step outside of your perception of others or of available information by seeking to understand other perspectives, new beliefs and information. Reframing changes your perception and you can become more abstract in your thinking.
Here is how to change your internal frame of reference to change your perception of needs and expectations.
- Know your NEEDS: Our decisions are responsive to our needs. We know our needs by feeling them, as we feel strong desires or emotions. Needs are more like medical conditions, they have signs and symptoms. Through these symptoms you get to know your needs. We always get motivated to take certain actions in order to reduce the internal tension that is caused by unmet needs. Think about the nature of needs in your life. Are they absolute? or do they serve a purpose? Knowing their nature provides you a better perspective.
Struggle between our needs and wants influence our decisions, though most of us pay little attention to them. Identifying and assessing your needs can improve your decisions and help you achieve valuable results.
- IDENTITY your needs: Here is a simple way to identify your needs. Look back into your past and ask yourself what needs were being met whenever you made right decisions. Make a list of your needs, check them by asking, Is this true need for me? or Do I want it because of something else? This way, you can identify your actual needs and not confuse yourself with wants.
- ASSESS your needs: You can make comparisons among your needs and use the information to guide your decisions. Identify your needs and assess them by comparing the results you want to accomplish to the results you are currently achieving.
- MEASURE your needs: Needs should be assessed and measured in order to help guide your decisions towards your desired result. Measure gaps in results by subtracting the current result from the desired result.
- FOCUS on the results: Focus on the results you want to accomplish first. “ if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” If you don’t know what results you want to achieve, then any decision will do. Plan your actions by aligning with your goals and objectives. If you have a purpose, you know how or what you need to do, and thus can assess your needs accordingly.
- PRIORITISE your needs: Understanding the purpose and results help you prioritise your needs. Do not just limit your needs to just being those things which you can’t live without. Write down the results you would like to accomplish in a year and compare this to your current result. Assess your gap and priorities, and take your actions to close the gap.
- THINK of wants as Underlying needs: We often fail when we try and cut back completely on our wants because of their happiness inducing nature. Wants are just an expression of underlying needs. Totally cutting out our wants will never last because we are actually cutting that need. Think of a want in your life and what underlying need(s) you are fulfilling with that want. Decide on ways to fulfil those underlying needs.
- Know your OPTIONS: You will improve your decision-making by considering options. All needs have multiple satisfiers. Look for different options even though you think one satisfier is going to be the best choice. There are always multiple ways to achieve any result. Thus, there are other alternatives to consider.
- RECONSIDER your needs: When the need pops as “I need to….” ask yourself what results you really want to achieve. Do you really need it? Or is it want? or can you change things so you don’t need it? Do not elevate any want to the level of need as yet. Always think of what purpose it is going to serve if you fulfil it. This way you will be able to take right decisions and be at your personal best rather than being part of the rat race.
Finally, push yourself to think bigger than your personal needs or organisational needs. Work with others and align for higher purpose. Doing so will give you a broader perspective and help you define your needs more concretely.
Manage your expectations.
The key to improve your perception is to manage your expectations. Asking yourself what your expectations are, are you basing them on assumptions or facts and whether or not they are reasonable helps you challenge unrealistic expectations. Identify where your expectations are coming from and look for any confirmation bias.
Questions for self-reflection
Are my needs absolutes? How do they serve my purpose?
What underlying need(s) are your wants fulfilling?
Are my expectations based on what I perceive to be true?
Do I prefer inaction/indecision over risky action/decision?
How could changing my perceptions will in turn improve my decisions?
“Every decision you make reflects your evaluation of who you are.”Marianne Williamson
Most of us spend great time in making decisions at personal or professional levels. We often make them through careful thought and deliberation after considering number of possible alternatives. And as much as we would like to think that our decisions are guided by logic and rationality, our perceptions always influence our decision-making process.
While making decisions, even those of minor importance, it is always advantageous to consider how your perceptual processes influence the quality of your decisions, so you can try to go beyond those influences and try to get a fresh perspective.
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