Simon Sinek on Why to Wait Before Making an Emotional Decision

In Chapter 6 of 20 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, author and leadership expert Simon Sinek shares how he manages his emotions when making decisions. In short, Sinek takes a pause to temper a potential emotional reaction. He finds asking "what good will come of this?" helps him understand where and when to respond. Simon Sinek is a trained ethnographer who applies his curiosity around why people do what they do to teach leaders and companies how to inspire people. He is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". Sinek holds a BA degree in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University.


Erik Michielsen: Where do you find balance between being overly emotional and removing emotion entirely when making a decision?

Simon Sinek: We all make decisions based on an emotional reaction, not necessarily using the emotion of our gut, you know? It’s sort of the naughty step, as Nanny Jo, Super Nanny Jo Fraust, you know, developed, I think has great value to us as adults as well, to just to sort of take a break and cool off, you know, when somebody sends you a rude email, don’t reply back immediately. Wait, and 99 times out of 100 you’ll go back and read it later, you’ll be like “yeah, whatever.” But, you won’t get all flustered. Or write the response but don’t hit send, you know, if you want to have the venting, you know, don’t hit send and maybe come back to it later. 

And I’m a great believer in tempering that emotional reaction.  I play a little game with myself – which is, before I make a decision, I ask myself um, “what good will come of this?” because I only want to make decisions where good will come of my decisions, right? And so you realize so often – I got an email once from somebody who, who wanted something from me, and I’d been trying to reach out to them for months for a small favor and I got nothing, I got a cold shoulder, and now all of a sudden, “wishing you well, I heard you had a book come out, congratulations… oh and by the way.” You know? 

And so of course, how do I reply? You know, I could be like “how dare you?” You know? So I ask myself, “What good will come of this?” And the answer was, if I send something mean, what good will come of that? Nothing, I’ll just inflame something. If I send something nice, what good will come of it? Nothing there either, because it’s artificial, you know, I’m not being genuine. And so I ended up sending nothing at all. I couldn’t make a decision; I couldn’t do something where something good will happen, so I did nothing. So I – with as many decisions as I can I ask myself “what good will come of this?” before I make the decision, because if my decisions can’t make good, then I shouldn’t make them at all.