Our emotions send us many vital messages that, in turn, trigger thoughts and feelings. So, we must have a strategy in place to be able to deliver a rational response when faced with life’s challenges.
Our Feelings Send us Vital Signals
We’ve all been in situations that stirred our emotions: A question that you weren’t comfortable answering or an email message in your inbox that upset you. It’s both natural and healthy for your emotions to trigger a so-called gut reaction. Still, it’s also useful to have a rational strategy to prevent our emotions from being hijacked.
Google’s Re-direction Strategy
In 2008, Google released a feature on its email system designed to avoid an intoxicated user from sending potentially damaging late-night emails. When activated, the G-Mail feature forced the user to solve a series of math problems before hitting “send.” This re-direction strategy was designed to give the brain time to rationally process thoughts before a final decision was made to send a potentially damaging emotion-filled rant to a family member or colleague.
The 24-Hour Rule
Another self-management strategy that promotes rational thinking and keeps emotions in check is “Sleeping on It,” otherwise known as the “24-Hour Rule”. This strategy gives you time to consider a difficult question or situation and then respond calmly and rationally, without being hijacked by emotions in your brain’s limbic system. Our emotions are carried out by the limbic system, located in the temporal lobe. Your thoughts move from there to the frontal lobe known as the rational brain, where we process and rationalize our emotions. The “Sleeping on It” strategy gives you time to prepare a rational response to a problematic situation and can be the difference between writing and saying what you want, versus what you should.
Be prepared to employ a strategy and walk away from your computer before responding to a derogatory email. Calmly tell the angry caller that you’ll get back to them. Then take a deep breath and pause. The situation dynamics could change dramatically during this self-imposed time out. Regardless, you have an opportunity to implement a rational strategy that should prevent an over-reaction driven by your emotions.
For more strategies on ways to strengthen your emotional intelligence, check out these blogs.
This article was originally published on April 28 2018, and has been updated (June 2020)
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