Mindful Email

In Resiliency Retreats, we explore awareness around our stress. How do we know we are stressed? What happens in our bodies? Our emotions? How to we know that others are stressed? One way stress is noticed is in communications and relationships. One retreat led us into a conversation where we noticed stress levels revealing themselves in email correspondence. Sometimes when we are stressed our communications become impatient, short, direct and not always careful in our wording. 

In 1972, Mirabai Bush returned to the U.S. from several years in India. So impacted by mindful awareness, (the practice of paying attention to what is going on inside oneself) she set a course to share what she learned. Little did she realize this would lead to work with companies like Apple and Google, and the creation of the Center for Contemplative Mind. Listening to her story last week on Krista Tippett’s OnBeing podcast, I was caught by one of the ideas she developed while working with Google. It is called “Mindful Emailing.” Here are her words:

“…it’s so simple, but like most mindfulness practices, it’s so simple, and we don’t do it. You just type out your email, either a response or an initiating email, and then you stop, take three deep breaths, follow your breath in and out, and in and out, and in and out, and then you read the email. And you read it from the perspective of the person who is going to receive it…we were focused on emotional impact…(upon receipt) is the person likely to be agitated or angry or frustrated or whatever the emotion would be — negative emotion? Or maybe, even, is this person likely to think you mean (something different than)…than you actually are?”

Most likely we have all both sent and received terse emails that have been the cause of miscommunication. To stop and breath, re-focus on what has been written (either by our own self, or the sender) considering the perspective from which it is written could save relational conflicts and additional stress.

This week, while you are sending and receiving emails, (or spending time on social media) take a deep breath. Practice suspending judgment and re-read what is being said at a deeper level or alternative perspective. When you write, breath before you hit send. Consider how it will be received by the other. It may save an additional conflict stressor to your daily life experience. 

Peace for the weekend,


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