Developing Your Own “Undo Send” Button

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Have you ever sent an email and immediately regretted it? Most of us have. Google added a feature to its Gmail system called “Undo Send” just for such occasions. Originally the sender had five seconds to “undo” the send command. Five seconds seems not very long. In fact, immediately pressure came for Google to extend the time to 10, 20, and eventually to 30 seconds. Users pick their own setting.

So whether communicating by email, texting, telephone, or in person, leaders keep in mind that every word carries with it the potential to build up or tear down, to enhance credibility or damage it.

It turns out that five seconds or less is all we need to realize we may have said something we will regret. Unfortunately, when we speak those words, we do not have an “undo send” button. We live with the consequences, sometimes forever.

Peter Bregman cites a neuroscientist to explain what is going on in our brains when we react in ways we later regret. When something unsettling happens to us, the emotional response center of the brain immediately evokes emotion. That is not bad, except that emotion is not the source of our best decisions. There is something of a battle going on in the brain between the emotional and more rational. The solution offered by the neuroscientist is, “Take a breath. If you take a breath and delay your action, you give the prefrontal cortex time to control the emotional response.” No more than one or two seconds normally is sufficient.

So whether communicating by email, texting, telephone, or in person, leaders keep in mind that every word carries with it the potential to build up or tear down, to enhance credibility or damage it. Leaders do not depend on a Gmail tool. They cultivate an internal “undo send” button that they use generously.


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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems, Jr., is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, distinguished professor of church leadership emeritus at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.


The Premier Doctor of Ministry in Church Leadership Excellence from Wesley Theological Seminary and the Lewis Center