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We have all had those moments in this digital age when we receive an e-mail or a text, feel hurt or angry by it, and then proceed to immediately pour our emotions onto the screen. I have experienced this a few times in the past month, and despite my retort laced with explanation, frustration and truth, I decided not to press the send button. In reality, we should realize that the transmission of digital data is like a police officer reading us our rights, where our message “can and will be used against us”. Taking that moment to pause before we hit send can save us from unwanted repercussions. By controlling and regulating our emotions, we can tap into our emotional intelligence and ultimately strengthen our emotional well-being.
A quick review of emotional intelligence:
Psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer first introduced the concept of emotional intelligence in 1990. They defined it as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions”.
Emotional intelligence is comprised of 5 domains1:
1) knowing one’s emotions or self-awareness
2) managing emotions
3) motivating oneself
4) recognizing emotions in others
5) handling relationships
Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence based on 4 skills:
4) social skills
I tend to gravitate toward Goleman’s description of emotional intelligence and appreciate the power of “self-management”. This is really what we are referring to when we think of “pause before you hit send”.
How do we harness self-management?
Another way to consider self-management is self-regulation. The ability to manage or regulate our emotions is fundamental in many, if not all, aspects of our life. Consider a time when you received a patronizing or disparaging e-mail from someone. Your first reaction may have been to write a pointed and curt response. If you did, how did it go? If you didn’t, were you glad you paused?
More often than not we do not regret the fact that we were able to step back and allow our emotions to regulate. When faced with such a situation, it can be very effective to write a response and let it sit for 24 hours. At that point, if you still believe in what you said, and would have no regrets sending it, then you have addressed the situation in a managed approach.
Other effective ways to self-regulate include:
Reflection: Reflect on how you have tended to handle overwhelming situations in the past. What has worked and what can you change to improve your approach?
Planning: If you know an upcoming situation will be difficult, plan ahead as to how you would like to approach it. Although things may not always go as planned, it certainly helps to be prepared.
Affirmation: Engage in self-talk. Our inner dialogue is one that we can control and it can be very useful when it is encouraging and positive. Focus on your strengths and then affirm those beliefs.
Brainstorm: Bounce your ideas off one or more people to manage your emotions through challenging situations. My usual brainstorming partner is my husband.
Visualize: I live by worst & best case scenarios, and so far, I don’t see any downside to exploring both of these options. For instance, if during your brainstorming session you can visualize the worst case scenario and it outweighs the best case scenario, you have your answer.
Do you tend to pause before you hit send? Have you ever had a negative experience because you didn’t pause?
1. Goleman, D. (2006). Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books; New York.
2. Bradberry, T. and Greaves, J. (2005). The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book. Fireside Books; New York.