Hot Letters

Dec 11, 2020

Last week I received an email which brought about some strong emotions and made me feel very defensive.

I immediately responded in a manner which unsurprisingly I later regretted!

It is interesting how email has become as instantaneous as texting, social media posts and other forms of technological communication.

“Instanticity” is synonymous with online life.

This recent event prompted me to revisit some concepts which seem more important than ever in today’s world of immediacy.

Our minds process information and make decisions in two ways - the first is intuitively, and impulsively (snap judgements) and the second weighs arguments and makes reasoned judgements.  It protects us from errors and impulsiveness.

Clearly, we want to get to the second way and avoid the first.

We need to find ways to get to that “reasoned judgement” state.

The simple answer is using TIME or creating PAUSES!

It takes TIME to get to the second state!  Slowing ourselves down gives time for the second system to kick in.

Years ago I would write business letters and send them to typing.  Whether someone was vetting the letter, or we were just re-reading it a few hours later, we had the benefit of getting to that reasoned state.

We no longer have editors and, in many cases, “time” in our online lives, includes texting, and email (whether personal or professional).

This means we not only need to create space; it means we need to understand our triggers.  Are there key words that get you “fired up”?

Remember the phrase  “When you are mad, count to 10”?  

That was just a way to create space from your emotions so that you could get away from that snap judgement state.

There is no forced pause in social media or our common forms of communication today.

As such, I propose that with every email or post online, a pop up box should appear with the words “Send now or 10 minutes or 24 hours?”

How many times have you written an emotional email, held off sending, and the next day upon re-review made many changes (mostly softening your stance) or deleted the email altogether?

Lincoln had a term for writing letters that vented anger and were never mailed. They were called Hot Letters.

The next time you receive an email or see a post online that generates some negative emotions, think about that forced pause and consider using the “Hot Letter” concept.

Marinating on your response will rarely get you in hot water!

Have a great weekend, Karl

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak out and remove all doubt.  Mark Twain
The emotional tail wags the rational dog. Jonathan Haidt

Karl Choltus

Deep thinking Canadian sharing thoughts created in the shower.