I don’t know why I am even writing about something as obvious as the 24 hour rule because chances are extremely high every reader of this blog knows about the 24 hour rule. Oh yeah, I know why! Because we all know this rule and without exception fail to follow it at least once a year.
The 24 hour rule is deceptively simple: when mad and upset, don’t email, don’t call, don’t reply, try not to talk…. whatever your head is telling you to do…just don’t. For 24 hours. After 24 hours, there is very little chance that you will do or say whatever you were going to do or say in the heat of the moment.
I took a course in the bank that talked about the amygdala hijack which is what happens when we get provoked and the most primitive part of our brain goes into high gear. This part of the brain serves an important purpose when the house is on fire…its response time is second to none. The problem is that our houses aren’t burning that often but the good old amygdala gets hijacked anyway – by emails from someone who is not showing up for work “again” or a landlord sending an unexpected bill or by maddening phone calls or the 10th batch of vanilla cupcakes ruined by the same baker.
There is a whole science behind why the human body reacts so forcefully and how long it takes to come back from the ledge. As it turns out, it really doesn’t take very long to calm down and be more responsive than reactive, but waiting a full day before actually doing or saying anything is still an excellent idea. That day gives you at least one evening during which you will likely be with someone in your personal life who can help you gain perspective.
The worst conflicts occur when the people at home or in our circle not only don’t calm us down but instead get us more stirred up! This, I think, is why some law suits and bitter fights drag on forever..because no one can see the forest for the trees. But I digress. If you are lucky enough to have a solid person in your life to rant and rave at, who will then gently help you regain your balance, you will return the next day to the scene of the crime able to respond rationally.
It has been a long time since I’ve broken the 24 hour rule in email. I learned awhile ago that sending a flaming-mad email doesn’t lower the frustration at all – it just makes it worse because now you’re waiting for the inevitable reply which is NOT going to be an abject apology. No, it is also going to be flaming-mad…and so it goes.
I still however can get “snippy”, a word my Mom used which I think is really just a euphemism for “bitchy”. Which is fine, I guess, once in awhile but generally speaking, it would always be better to take a deep breath and tuck the provocation away as a “tellable moment” for later. Chances are good that Andrew’s sympathetic ear will be enough, and in those cases where there really is something that needs to addressed, the best solution will come to me later…usually about 24 hours later.