The Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) ...

The squirrels in our yard are not as cute as this one. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My parent’s house backs up onto a pretty decent sized woods so they get a large variety of wildlife. After a BBQ, we often throw our finished corncobs out into the woods for the deer or other animals. We’ve made a game of this, seeing who can throw theirs the farthest and we’ve been doing it at family gatherings for years.

My father, like many birdfeeder owners, is in an ongoing war with the squirrels and he often jokes when throwing his cob that he’s going to try to hit one. Let me add the disclaimer here that we are all huge animal lovers and that my father would never actually hurt a squirrel on purpose, it’s just a running gag. Not to mention the fact that they are so far away, that would have to be some pretty supernatural aim to be able to even get close. But one day several years ago, when Dad was tossing his cob into the woods, a squirrel ran directly into the path of the flying corn and he hit it dead on. 

Dad was shocked. The squirrel itself mostly just looked annoyed and then grabbed the cob for himself and ran off, totally fine. (Lucky for the squirrel, they were only half cobs that day and he was far away so it didn’t even knock him off his feet.) But us humans were so surprised that Dad had actually (even accidentally) beaned a squirrel after talking about it for years that there was this din of family alternately cheering and chastising him. Our cacophony was suddenly drowned out by a voice telling us to stop.

All eyes turned to my tween aged cousin who was furious, literally shaking with rage. She’s one of the biggest animal lovers of all of us and before any of us could speak, she screamed, full of passion, her eyes spilling over with tears, “How could you do that in this economy?

She was so upset that we all tried. We really did. But it was only a matter of seconds before we all burst into uncontrollable laughter. She only got more upset. As we composed ourselves and tried to explain to her that the squirrel was OK, she kept screaming at us through tears that we didn’t understand, that the economy was bad and that meant things were harder for squirrels, like finding food. No matter how many times we tried to explain to her that the economy had nothing to do with squirrels, she didn’t believe us.

Now, clearly, she was just parroting something she’d heard someone else say without really understanding. She was extremely passionate about it and she genuinely believed, with all her heart, that the bad economy was  somehow causing hardship for squirrels. But all the passion in the world doesn’t change the fact that she was wrong.

I’m telling you this story because a lot of us fall into this trap. Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s religion. Maybe it’s a business philosophy. It’s something we’re so passionate about that we’ve let ourselves become so totally consumed by emotion that we can no longer can see that we’re just plain wrong.

It can also be really hard to realize when we’re seeing this in others. It’s really tempting to associate passion with being right; in other words, to assume the person who seems the most emotionally invested in what they are saying is the one that’s correct when that may not even remotely be the case. I think the digital age has made this even worse because it’s so much easier to fire off a knee jerk reaction and so simple to get worked up over nothing.

When it comes to running your business and your online profile, you need to give yourself some kind of litmus test. Am I reacting out of rational facts or am I just reacting based on blind emotion? Did I let a TV show work me into such a frenzy that I’m too emotional to see the real truth?

What’s your strategy for keeping your emotions from clouding your judgement when it comes to matters heated?