How to Think Rationally (For Those Who Solve Problems Emotionally)

While emotions are important, when someone reacts emotionally, it can seem like they’ve thrown rational thinking out the window. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

While many blame emotions, the problem is not necessarily because of them, but because emotions tend to lead to impulsive decision making. It’s these impulsive decisions, made without much forethought or planning, that should try to be avoided.

While it may sound like an overwhelming task, once broken down into steps, it’s not too hard to learn how to think rationally. Here’s how you do it.

What do you feel?

Don’t try to hide your emotions. Emotions are good. Emotions help you make decisions, whether it’s what shirt to wear or where to go on that second date. So when you’re faced with an issue, examine your feelings about it. Does it make you sad? Frustrated? Happy? Guilty? It’s okay to feel any type of way about a situation, but you need to understand your emotions are separate from the problem at hand.

Face the problem.

Now that you understand how you feel about it, really look at the problem and separate it from your emotions. Think about the problem from different perspectives and come up with a multitude of solutions. Brainstorm, because those individuals that think emotionally tend to be creative and can think outside the box.

Once you have a handful of solutions available to you, choose one.

Wait a little while.

You’ve made a decision, but don’t follow through with the solution just yet. Chill. Do something else. If you can wait a day, by all means, wait a day. By stepping away from the problem and taking your mind off it, when you return, you’re less likely to react emotionally and be able to think rationally about the issue.

Handle the problem.

After some time away from the problem, revisit it. Think about the problem and the solutions you came up with. You’re more likely to see the situation clearly and may even have a better understanding of the problem. At this point, you’ve thought about it, brainstormed different ideas, took some time away from it, and you should be able to make a decision based on reason instead of pure emotions.

It’s important to understand emotional thinking has nothing to do with intelligence, so don’t think you’re dumb or stupid just because you’re emotional. It’s our emotions that drive us all to have goals and desires, and it’s time to accept the emotional part of yourself. Yet, if you continue to let emotions determine your problem solving, you may find yourself holding on to resentments. If it continues, impulsive decision making can become an internal defensive mechanism and you may become easily discouraged.

By taking these steps, you can add an element of rational thinking to your decision making. This way, while you’re still using your emotions to make decisions, you’re not led by impulse and you’re less likely to end up in situations you wish you hadn’t.


Are you an emotional problem solver? What challenges have you faced? We want to know what you think. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Additional Image: IamNotUnique/Flickr





Molly Carter
Molly Carter
Molly is a freelance writer who talks about everything and anything from addiction, to sex. to skinning a deer. You can find her at, or Facebook.