You read an email and are compelled to immediately respond. So you type away, push send, and feel satisfaction. “I told them!”
Five seconds to five minutes later you have a sinking feeling in your stomach. Wait, what did I say? Unfortunately, you can go back and read it, and your worst thoughts are confirmed.
What happened here is that our emotions got the best of us. We had an emotional reaction that hijacked our brain, and we typed that email with a very narrow, and mostly incorrect, viewpoint. Oops.
Changing any behavior, including sending an email too fast, requires the combination of awareness, tools, and habits—awareness of your actions on a moment by moment basis, tools to change those actions, and habits using the tools.
But when we send an email too fast, we are not aware of our actions until it is too late. How do you apply this framework here?
Learn the tools. Then form habits around the tools. Over time awareness will increase.
The tools: the key skill here is noticing emotions real time. Emotions are physiological sensations in our body. Each emotion has a unique signature. We can get better at noticing emotions by directing our attention to our body, noticing what we feel, and using language to describe our underlying emotional state.
The habit: Intellectually knowing about emotions is one thing. We have to practice noticing them to get better. What habit would be best for you?
After I go into my inbox, I will check my underlying emotional state and write it down on a piece of scrap paper.
After I walk into a meeting, I will notice any underlying emotions and whisper them to myself
After I wake up, I will practice a body scan [A body scan is an exercise where you intentionally focus your attention on specific body parts. Over time this helps you develop a higher resolution awareness of what is happening in your body, which is the key to noticing emotions real time.]
Awareness: Over time, awareness will increase. Unfortunately, increasing awareness does not always feel like progress. You might start to notice even more emails that you are reacting to. Trust that you are not becoming a more reactive person. Instead, your awareness is increasing! With practice your awareness will increase enough to start noticing before you send these emails.
Learn a tool. Form habits around the tool. Your awareness will increase, and you’ll be on your way to changing your behavior in a sustainable way. Off you go!