How To Choose Your Response – The 24 Hour Rule

Choose your response – how do you do that? In the face of being flamed in an e mail; getting a less than favorable performance review; receiving poor customer service; getting a rejection to your sales pitch; being pressured by a sales pitch; feeling a sense of obligation to respond; or any of a thousand other ways, how do you choose your response?

It ain’t easy, but the answer is to invoke the “24 Hour Rule.” That Rule states that, except for life threatening emergencies, you have 24 hours to respond to most situations. The Rule says that instant response is, in most cases, not best response. The Rule says that quick response favors the person or event that put you in the position of having to respond. The Rule says that taking the time to choose a response favors you – it shows emotional maturity and the ability to respond effectively. The Rule also says that most things that have the potential to create instant response, such as being cut off on the freeway, aren’t worth any response.

The Rule provides the space to consider alternatives, consult, get advice, information and facts, and see the situation from different perspectives. In most situations, that results in a best possible situation.

Let’s face it – in work, there are many situations where a response is expected right away. It would be suicide not to give an immediate response. But that response can be shaped as a request for the time to take action to get facts, touch base with others, look at alternatives. Rarely will the situation call for a snap decision based on incomplete information and analysis of alternatives. If a person demands an immediate response, there’s a good chance that action, rather than decision, will be acceptable and expected, as long as the request includes a time commitment.

On a different level, a story about car buying and the 24 Hour Rule:

My daughter was shopping for an almost new SUV. She had found one in her price range, but it was a dull color and she was really not very interested in it. On the other hand, she needed a newer vehicle, it was in the price, age and mileage range, and it was the brand she wanted, and there didn’t appear to be many on the market. Plus the salesman told her there were other people interested in it, and she should act now to buy it – or face the possibility of losing it. She called me; we talked about what was good and bad about the deal. I told her to remember there is always another vehicle; and if she really didn’t like the color, that was an acceptable reason for passing. She passed. She spent a week or two looking at other SUV’s. After about two weeks, the salesman she passed on called: he had an SUV that fit all of her requirements, and it had all the bells and whistles, and it was a great color. She bought it – she’s happy. She would have hated that first SUV – she would have regretted not waiting. The 24 Hour Rule worked for her.

A suggestion: Take an inventory of your own decisions. Do you act impulsively on things? What price have you paid for acting on impulse? Do you have regrets or an “if only” feeling about decisions, actions, purchases that you have made? If you do, put the 24 Hour Rule in your self talk. And the next time you’re tempted to respond immediately, ask yourself if taking 24 hours to choose your response can help you make a better response. I guarantee that in 95% of your situations, that time will be well spent.

Replace the “act in haste, repent at your leisure” behavior by using the 24 Hour Rule – it works.