Take a Deep Breath

Have you ever considered how much your reaction time affects your response to a situation? Let’s take a moment today to consider this in the context of your business. Suppose you get an angry email from a client — do you reply right away or do you wait?

Does your choice here affect your ultimate response to the email?

Studies say it does.


Do you know that, statistically speaking, when a police officer makes a traffic stop, if he approaches the offending vehicle at a slow walk he is less likely to pull out his gun (should the situation escalate)? If he walks up to the car at a rapid pace, he’ll be more likely to pull out his gun and shoot. (Again, only if there’s an altercation, of course.)

Do you know why?

When law enforcement officers walk fast, they compress the time they have available to make a decision about their safety during the stop. This time compression means they are much more likely to deem any move the motorist makes as a threat.

I have a friend who’s a police officer and he says that he typically stops the car, then takes three deep breaths before approaching the car. When he does make his approach, he often walks around to the passenger side because it takes a bit longer, and the driver will be expecting him on the driver’s side of the car. That means that for a moment, the driver isn’t looking at him, which gives him more time to evaluate the situation.

We don’t have that much responsibility

No, we don’t have as much responsibility as a police officer but the same principles still apply.

Next time you get an angry/rude/mean email, don’t reply to it right away. In fact, leave it for 24 hours then write a response. Get someone else to read your response (I usually ask my wife). Then wait another hour before sending it.

With this waiting done, you’re way more likely to think clearly and send an email that doesn’t escalate the situation. You’re way more likely to come up with a resolution that leaves both you and the client happy (and still on speaking terms).

Stop, think, wait, think, send.

photo credit: judy-van-der-velden cc

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