About to Unleash a Comment You Might Regret? Do This First.
The ‘one plus 24’ rule prevents you from responding out of raw anger
Scrolling through Facebook recently, I came across a breathtakingly stupid post by an old high school acquaintance: Most of us probably won’t die from the coronavirus, he wrote, so we should stop making a big deal about it.
I stretched my fingers across the keyboard to unleash an assault at the insensitivity of his comment — How is giving a shit about other people so difficult? — when I remembered the rule I gave myself for times I am about to say something I might regret.
“One plus 24,” I told myself.
And then I shut my laptop.
Between the pandemic, political unrest, the ongoing fight for racial justice, and fear that seems endless, it’s an understatement to say that tensions are high right now. And it can feel good — great, even — to spew what’s on your mind without stopping to think it through. But a response of pure, raw anger is rarely the most effective one. As a person who’s easily set off — by rejection, by ordinary criticism, by dumb comments on the internet — I’ve entered a cycle of speaking out of impulse and then dwelling on my words after my mind has settled down. How did I get so worked up over that? Why did I say those things? Why couldn’t I have just ignored them?
“One-plus-24” is a strategy that helps me respond rationally, not emotionally. It’s not a science-based formula, just a twist on a classic deescalation tool. Here’s how it works.
Write one angry letter. But don’t send it.
Years ago, I read a story about how Benjamin Franklin wrote an angry letter to a friend of his in the British Parliament, but instead of sending it, he stuffed it into a drawer. The simple act of writing what he wished to say satisfied his urge to unload a tirade of venom. (Several other notable historical figures have also famously made use of the angry unsent letter, including Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain.)
Try it yourself. Whenever someone says or does something that triggers you, take a deep breath and pull out a pen and piece of paper. From my own…