People are often less mindful with email than they are with face to face communication. Computer screens have the tendency of creating a “zoned out” state. Yet, mindfulness in emails can be very important – in fact, it can be even more important than mindfulness in face to face communication.
Why? Because in emails, the receiver is acting on incomplete information. You don’t have all the nonverbal cues telling you what the other person is really trying to communicate. When you’re reading an email, it’s easy to misread a person’s intentions – and see an attack or criticism, where there wasn’t one. Likewise, when sending an email, it’s easy to send an email that’s received harsher than it was meant to be.
Mindful emailing can help prevent both of these situations. Mindful emailing means staying connected to yourself during the email process, as well as staying connected to the fact that you’re communicating with another human being.
You don’t have to practice mindfulness every time you open an email. However, practicing mindfulness during charged or potentially heated email exchanges can go a long way towards diffusing tensions and preserving relationships.
Developing Mindful Habits for Reading & Sending Emails
When you notice heat, anger or defensiveness arising during an email exchange, pause for a moment. Then go through this meditation process.
Take a Conscious Breath. Take a few moments to just pay attention to your breath. This can help “break” you out of your negative state. If you’re feeling negative emotions strongly, consider pausing for a couple minutes to do two minutes of breathing meditation.
Visualize the Sender / Recipient. Take a moment to visualize the other human being with whom you’re communicating. Become present to the fact that you’re in an exchange with another human. You’re not just typing letters into a screen, but interacting with another being. Spend a couple moments with this idea.
Re-Read the Email. If you’re sending an email, re-read the email. Remember that the receiver doesn’t have the same non-verbal cues as an in-person communication. Remember that they might not necessarily assume positive intentions, unless positive intentions are abundantly clear. Is there any way that your email could be misconstrued? Use your emotional barometer as a guide and rewrite your email if necessary.
If you’re receiving an email, likewise, pause and re-read the email. Notice any emotions or sensations that arise in your body, and simply let them pass without judgment. Realize that you also don’t have the benefit of nonverbal cues, and that you may be reading criticism or attack where there isn’t one. Re-read the email and see if the email could be read more objectively.
Take Three Breathes Before Replying. Before you hit “send” on your reply, take three deep, slow breaths, at least four seconds in and four seconds out. Stay as present as you can to your emotions and to your breath. During these three breaths, feel free to change your mind about sending, or to decide to edit your email before hitting send.
It’s easy to be impulsive with email. A person who never lashes out at others in person can easily send off a criticizing email without being aware that it might hurt the receiver. Taking just a few moments to go through these steps can help avoid a lot of misunderstandings, as well as needless stressful emotions.
To your happiness and success,
– Search Inside Yourself