An Unemotional Approach to Problem Solving

March 18, 2024

An Unemotional Approach to Problem Solving

When you’re running or leading a business – problems happen all the time. Inevitably, some challenges trigger emotions that can make it hard to find clarity. No matter what is at stake, big or small, most of us don’t make our best decisions when we are emotionally charged. 

Based on Episode 1 of our podcast Sow You Can Grow, here is a little insight and a few tactics that can help you cultivate and practice an unemotional approach to problem solving.

When a situation brings up an emotional response, the first thing to remember is don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all been there before.


Develop Emotional Mastery

Encouraging entrepreneurs like you to take an “unemotional approach” to problem solving doesn’t mean we’re asking you to invalidate your feelings. In fact, acknowledging your feelings is the place to start. If something happens in your life – personally or professionally – and you react in an overly emotional manner, the first question you should ask yourself is, “why am I responding this way?”

Maybe your challenge is tapping into your insecurities as a business owner. Maybe a person involved in the situation is irritating to you. Maybe the issue reminds you of a previous experience that left a bad taste in your mouth. There’s a litany of reasons why you could be reacting emotionally to a situation. The most important thing you can do – before making a decision – is process your emotion. Take a deep breath and dig into your emotion to analyze it further.

In Episode 1 of Sow You Can Grow, my co-host Lucas Mitchell calls this process “emotional mastery”. While emotions are a great part of being human, our feelings often take over our thoughts and cloud our judgment.

Although emotional mastery is essential to improving decision-making, it’s not a switch that can be flipped. It requires time, coaching or counseling, and personal reflection to better understand and navigate our emotions.

When a trying situation arises, start by exploring your initial reaction. Take a moment to feel your emotional response. Allow yourself to process that feeling. Don’t push it aside. Sit with it and explore it before it impacts your decision making ability or behavior.

Mastering your emotions is about finding ways to utilize them in a healthy way. They may be trying to tell you something you can use to navigate the very challenge you are facing.

A great way to speed up the process of emotional mastery is by working with a performance coach. We recommend checking out our good friend Jason Drees and his team of coaches. (Listen to Episode 2 to hear more from Jason).

Leveraging Logic & Intuition

After you have taken the time to process and better understand your emotions, you can begin to evaluate the situation with more tact and a more productive perspective. When we don’t know what to do, it can feel like a fog. Having a clear method of evaluation empowers our decision making process and saves time.

To continue to clear the fog, look at the issue through two defined lenses – logic and intuition. Logic is based on what you know–your education and experience. Intuition is based on what you feel and what you think.

Ask yourself, what is the best path forward logically? What has worked in the past? What has worked for other people? Considering the details of this situation and my available resources, what are a few logical solutions? Write your answers to these types of questions down – we find it’s better to write them by hand rather than typing them out. 

Once you have a few logical thoughts laid out, ask yourself what is my gut or intuition telling me? What feels right? Lucas describes his intuition as a, “sense that something is the right decision.”

Thinking about a problem using different parts of us – our logical mind and our intuition – brings balance and a more comprehensive view. Emotions can cause us to overthink, which can block us from taking action. Something as simple as having an established evaluation practice can help you better navigate challenges with more confidence and clarity.

Leading a company comes with mistakes and missteps. And sometimes trying something that doesn’t work is the only way to find out what does work. Finding a balance between your experience and education (logic) and your creativity and innovation (intuition) can help you keep forward momentum even when the initial plan needs to change.

Don’t Over Consume Information

Entrepreneur Alert 🚨- Be cautious of over consuming information, as it can lead to inaction and a lack of trust in your own intuition.

Now more than ever, especially in the world of social media and entrepreneur influencers, there is a lot of noise around what it takes to be a successful leader. There are countless books, podcasts, and clips on social media telling us how to run our businesses. While some of these ideas and opinions can give helpful insight, they can also lead to over-saturation and/or overstimulation. 

Lucas discussed this in Episode 2 saying, “You feel like you get past the emotion, but then there’s still some more clouds because there’s just too much information that you’ve consumed or are consuming.”

Having too much input from outside sources can cause us to question ourselves and ultimately lead to wasting time and energy. When we stop trusting ourselves, we lose the connection to our intuition and we invalidate our own experience.

The most powerful thing a leader can do is remain flexible and adaptable. When you are following someone else’s playbook for success step-by-step, and your experience is different, that influence can become more confusing than clarifying.

If you are facing a problem, focus on finding the solution for that specific challenge. There may be a book that has some helpful insight on your exact situation. Find the chapters or sections that are relevant, read those, and then get back to finding your own solution. If it feels right, get a little feedback from your peers or insight from a business leader you respect. But then get back in touch with what you think and feel.

Focus on the Outcome

Just as it is important to balance logic and intuition, so is finding a balance around expectations.

When a problem arises, it can be easy to get lost in trying to solve the problem immediately. The truth is some solutions take days, weeks, months or even years to fully implement.

When emotions are high, step back, process the emotion, view the situation logically, check in with your intuition, and place the end goal at the front of your mind. Once you are in a less emotional state, ask yourself, what am I ultimately working towards? What is the next step toward that goal? How can I take action on the step that is right in front of me? Or what is the next “right thing”?

The next level is remembering that your desired outcome does not have to happen exactly as you imagined it. Being too wrapped up in things going precisely according to plan can block you from pivoting when needed – and also let us down when things inevitably change. 

Say you have a deal you are excited about. Maybe you think it would change the impact of your business or help you enter a new area of your industry. Sometimes we get so excited about and attached to an opportunity that we try to force an outcome that just doesn’t fit. When we are too attached to a specific result, we can start to abandon logic and ignore our intuition. If a deal or an idea is not coming together, ask yourself, is this really what is best for the company? Or have I let my excitement around the possibility cloud my judgment?

Be cautious of the idea that you must “win at all costs.” When we are too attached to one specific deal or opportunity, we are in jeopardy of sacrificing long term success for a perceived short term gain. Stay flexible and effective by both continuously focusing on your desired outcome, while also avoiding attachment to specific outcomes.

Beware of Negative & Positive Emotions

It can be easy to see where negative emotions may cloud your ability to make good decisions or stay focused on your desired outcome. It’s not always as obvious to recognize how positive emotions can keep you from seeing a clear way forward. Knowing your personality type is a great way to better understand how your emotions affect your judgment. One simple indicator of your personality type is whether you tend to be pessimistic or optimistic.

Let’s look at a few situations from the perspective of both types to better understand how both negative and positive emotions can create business blind spots.

When there is a conflict with a client, a pessimist may have such a negative reaction that they can’t find an effective solution. Facing the same issue, an optimist may be so focused on keeping a positive attitude that they don’t take necessary action to remedy the situation.

Now let’s look at two different reactions to hiring. An optimist may feel so positive about a new hire that when that person fails to deliver they have a hard time accepting the new hire simply wasn’t the right fit for the role. On the other hand, a pessimist may become so defeated when the new hire doesn’t meet expectations that they blame themselves entirely and delay looking for a better candidate.

The emotional reactions to these situations are different but the results are the same. So, no matter your personality type, be aware of how both overly negative and purely positive emotions can cause inaction or misguided perspectives.

Again it all comes back to balance. Recognize the impact of both negative and positive emotions on decision-making and strive for a more nuanced perspective.

Awareness is the Key

Keeping emotion out of your problem solving process ultimately comes down to awareness. Knowing and acknowledging what is driving you (emotions) and focusing what you’re working towards (desired outcome) are not one and done tasks. It is a continuous practice. But once you begin to seek a higher level of awareness into your daily work life – and personal life for that matter – it gets easier and easier to know when your emotions are running the show and how to clear away the fog.

Here are the key takeaways from this article that can help you create more awareness:

  • Develop emotional mastery to avoid letting emotions cloud decision-making.
  • When assessing and solving problems, find the balance between logic and intuition 
  • Be cautious of over consuming information, as it can lead to inaction and a lack of trust in one’s own intuition.
  • Continuously focus on the desired outcome and avoid attachment to specific outcomes.
  • Recognize the impact of both negative and positive emotions on decision-making and strive for a balanced perspective.

For more relevant business tips for entrepreneurs, follow the Sow You Can Grow Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.