Don’t Get Emotional When You Read This
I received an email from a colleague a while back that I would describe as brutal. Blistering, even.
Anger oozed out of it. Accusations abounded. My heart sank. Because I knew what would happen next. And it saddened me.
I once worked with a very wise man, Paul Cocks. I owe him much, and love him dearly. He was an important mentor to me a decade ago. His insight into people is what I remember most. He quickly sized me up as a hot head – someone who would fire up quickly, get emotional, point the finger, and attack.
His advice, which he gave me many times when he saw the red mist rising over my eyes, was this:
“Give it the 24 hour test.”
Before reacting, before sending that blistering email or otherwise responding, sit on it for 24 hours. Then re-read it, and – guaranteed – you will be shocked at what you wrote, and change it dramatically.
Emotions can be your friend or your enemy. They can drive you to glory or to destruction. They can galvanise or confuse you. Uncontrolled emotions will cause bad decisions. Know it. Watch out for it.
Nowadays, I know I don’t need the full 24 hours to make a better judgment. Two hours is fine. I have trained myself to recognise the signs of my emotional explosions, to say ‘Chris, here it comes…now, take control’, and then what I do next is vent. I like to write the response email, with all its harshness and fury, or make notes on what I will say to someone, and expletives abound. This makes me feel so much better. And then I park it – for even two hours. That’s all it needs for a more measured, sensible, appropriate and smarter response to become apparent.
Now, if I was really able, I’d be much more mature in controlling the way I respond to things in the first place. But I have not got there yet. I still respond instinctively, and often that is to get emotional. I am, though, getting much better at understanding myself, managing that emotion, pausing before reacting, and making better judgments after that pause. Not yet a poster boy for it, but getting better.
And that’s why I felt sad when I got my colleague’s email. I knew that from the moment he sent it, he was thinking: “Oh shit – that was possibly not the smartest thing to do. Wish I could withdraw it. I wonder how Chris will react?” He would have had butterflies in his stomach. He would have been nervous and anxious about my response. And he’s too good a guy to have to feel that way.
I delayed responding. He wrote again a few hours later (after a good night’s sleep), apologising and putting his frame of mind in perspective. My heart was with him. I knew how he felt, I knew what had happened, and was absolutely on his side.
I have been there many times before, but far less often since Paul told me a decade ago to ‘Give it the 24 hour test’. It’s made my life a lot easier, not having to nervously await responses to emails I wish I’d never sent. Give it a go.