Cooling Off (#205)
The next time you feel your fight-or-flight mechanism engaged, try following the 24-hour rule.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who coaches a youth soccer team and he shared a clever policy he has instituted with the parents of his players.
If parents have a complaint or issue they want to raise about the game, they need to wait 24 hours before emailing him about it. I
t can feel cathartic to get something that is bothering us off our chest. But, in the heat of the moment, we often say things that we regret, or overstate the importance of a problem that doesn’t seem nearly as significant upon further reflection. When we confront an issue immediately, our fight-or-flight response is engaged, and in these moments, we are ready to fight.
The term 'fight-or-flight' represents the choices our ancestors had when faced with danger or threats. In those cases, they could either fight or run away. Medical research shows the physiological response to stress triggers the release of hormones that unconsciously prepare your body for either outcome. In modern times, psychological researchers note that the fight-or-flight response still occurs in situations that don’t present physical danger.
The problem with responding to or communicating with others under these conditions is that our stress response prevents us from thinking clearly; we might not think through the potential damage we can do, especially if we “fight” the other person verbally.