How To Take A Decision When In A Dilemma!


I was recently invited to be the keynote speaker at India Emerge Youth Summit 2018 organized by VIT University. I am a corporate speaker and usually do not do many university events, however because they were following up with me diligently for a while, I accepted the invitation. When they started advertising my appearance, I received an email from a person who said he used to be a part of the organizing team till an year back but left because of the one of the speakers he recommended was mistreated. He asked me to back out of the same if I wanted to avoid the same mistreatment. I ignored the first email. The person again emailed me, this time begging me not to come to the event as I would feel humiliated by the lack of hospitality.

How often has it happened that we take decisions in our personal and professional life and suddenly someone comes up like a well wisher, cautioning us against taking the decision? Then, we take those comments at face value and reverse our decision. Whether it comes to business deals, jobs, marriage etc., it just takes a description of one negative experience for us to freeze in our tracks.

Companies hiring for jobs call up the previous (often competing) company to ask how the employee was. If the response is negative, they are hesitant to hire them. That’s like calling up the divorced spouse of the person you are about to marry and expecting them to say good things about that person!

Now, you might say that one needs references and advice from others to determine whether they should go ahead with a personal or professional decision. That is absolutely correct. I believe there are few things you need to ascertain before you make your decision. This is the framework I usually apply when in doubt while taking decisions and I applied the same in the case of this invitation as well.

  1. What is the impact and probability of the risk involved?  Impact of the risk means, how terrible would be the worst case scenario. Probability means, what are the chances of the same happening. If the worst case scenario of something going wrong is not something serious or something you can easily accept, then you don’t need to ponder things over and go ahead as even if you go wrong, it won’t make much of a difference.If the impact of the risk is very low, take the decision quickly to save time and ignore the points below.
  2. What is the credibility of the complainant? Assuming the impact/worst case scenario is somewhat serious, you need to figure out how probable it is that it will happen. How credible is the person who is telling you not to do something. Is it someone who has built trust with you over time? Is it a report from someone who has the professional expertise from years of experience to point out the possibility of real threats? If the word of caution comes from any of these people, surely pay attention. However, if it is a random complainant, the chances of that being credible are lower.
  3. Does the complainant have any conflict of interest? Is there something the complainant will gain if you decide not to go ahead? Does the complainant have any personal animosity against the person or the group with which you are going to do a deal? There are innumerable cases of people looking to ruin the success of others because of personal or professional jealousy. Is there a possibility of the same here? If the person who is cautioning you is clearly going to get something out of sabotaging the other person’s deal, then you should think twice before saying no.
  4. What is the credibility of the person/group you are going to deal with? This maybe easy or hard to determine depending upon how much information is available publicly on the same. Assuming it is a moderate to high impact issue but you are still looking to go ahead, you need to see if their track record is visible somewhere. If the track record is not visible, the impact of the risk is high, the credibility of the cautionary message is high and there is no conflict of interest on the complainant’s part, then you need to slow down if you are looking to proceed.
  5. Have you raised the issue with the other party and have they given a satisfactory answer? Often, after having researched and established the truth of whatever facts you can, the best thing to do is to go to person/group you are going to be dealing with and raise your concerns, especially if the impact of a risk is high high.  Perhaps they can give you a satisfactory explanation, perhaps they can give you proper evidence that backs up their side of the story and this will give you the confidence to move ahead.
  6. The usage of emotional tactics. Does the complainant or the one you are going to do the deal with give you reasons to take the decision based on facts or do they use emotional tactics? The usage of emotional tactics instead of facts almost always implies manipulation and you should probably not trust a person/group that relies on the same to try to make you come to a decision.

Here is how I applied the above.

The impact of possibly being mistreated was moderate, but because my wife was going to be there as well, it became on the higher side! The initial idea was to ignore the email but she asked me to do some research. As they say, an idea can change your life, your wife can change your idea! I had to do some research before making a decision.

The credibility of the complainant was non existent. The email id was possibly fake as I could not establish the authenticity of the person with that name. I did not know the person at all.

The complainant mentioned that he was a part of the organizing team the year before but left after what happened. They themselves displayed their conflict of interest. Perhaps they were kicked out or were unhappy and were trying their best to sabotage the chances of the group by making the keynote speaker back out and spoil the summit.

The India Emerge Youth Summit is a summit that is being organized by one of the top ranked Engineering Universities in India for the last several years. A lot of  major celebrities have graced it as keynote speakers in the past and I could not find anything online where people complained about the event. The credibility of the event was very high.

As my wife was going to be with me, I still had to ensure the risk was minimized. I went directly to the organizing team and without naming the complainant, I mentioned about the emails I was getting and wanted to ensure the hospitality was great. They handled my concerns gracefully, were not defensive, gave evidences of successful events in the past and re-assured us.

Finally, the complainant was clearly over-emotional and literally begged me not to come, because he was concerned about the mistreatment, as if he were my mother.

Taking into account everything mentioned above, I decided to go ahead for the occasion. Now, ultimately what ended up happening? The event turned out to be one of the most fun programs I have conducted! I was asked to open the summit, the crowd was amazing and everyone had a lot of fun. But what I appreciated much more was the hospitality showed by the organizing team. It was poles apart from what the email had described. Despite being just students, they did their absolute best to ensure that even the slightest of concerns were addressed immediately. Even once the speech was over, the team members did their best to take great care of me and my wife. The summit was still going on and other speakers had to come in and yet, the same students somehow managed to balance everything incredibly well. In the end, I had a great experience and only have positive things to say.

The next time you are in a dilemma about that business deal, or job/new hire, or something major in your personal life because of someone cautioning you against it, just use the framework mentioned above. You are guaranteed to  figure out the best decision for yourself!