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The 24 Hour Rule - Two Takes On It

Updated: Mar 27

Yes. The 24 Hour Rule. So, what is it?

Well, it's slightly complicated because there are two definitions of it that are in some ways similar and some ways different. Both involve a response time of 24 hours when communicating with others.

Both definitions are the subject of this Back 2 Basics post because both are about the "basics."

Post about the 24 Hour Rule
Back 2 Basics - A Social Media Series of The Nexus Initiative

First Definition of the 24 Hour Rule: The "Wait" Version

When emotions are elevated or heated, or you feel emotionally dysregulated, the rule says you should not respond to emails or other outreaches within 24 hours.

The rationale for this approach is that in the heat of the moment, we have a higher propensity to say something we will regret later. As human beings, we all do it, but saying things in the heat of the moment can cause relational damage that you have to repair later.

Neurologically, what is happening is something called the Amygdala hijack, or it's when the Amygdala part of your brain takes over your bodily functions. Or, as the person who coined the phrase, Daniel Goleman, defined it as an intense emotional reaction that is out of proportion to the circumstance. The Amygdala is a rapid reaction mechanism when our brains interpret (misinterpret?) information as a threat to us. When it's triggered, the rational brain (prefrontal cortex) is bypassed, and the emotional brain (Amygdala) takes over. Its concern is primarily with fight, flight, or freeze. It's not, shall we say, the best at providing thoughtful responses.

Embracing the 24-hour rule in these circumstances allows the brain to shift out of the Amygdala hijack state and back into its rational and thoughtful state, allowing you to respond thoughtfully.

Once your emotions have settled and you have returned to an emotionally regulated state, then go ahead and respond.

Second Definition of the 24-Hour Rule: The "Don't Wait" Version.

The second definition of the 24-hour Rule is different, and it says to make it a practice to respond to someone's outreach within 24 hours of receiving it.

This version is not about managing your responses so you are not emotional when you write them. It's about being responsive to someone's outreach to you in a way that shows respect to them. By responding, in some way, within 24 hours, you show you have received their message and value responding back to them in a timely manner.

In summary, this rule is focused on the goal of being responsive to others when they reach out to us and doing so within 24 hours of receiving their outreach to you.

What If I can't respond in 24 hours?

It's a fair question because sometimes circumstances may dictate that you cannot respond fully or how you would like to respond in 24 hours. That's ok.

If this is your circumstance, give them a simple acknowledgment of receipt of the request, let them know when you will get back to them, and try to be as specific as possible. All good.

If you can’t make the new date you set, proactively update them with a new date so they don’t have to ask you again. And, yes, even if you don’t make the new deadline you set, own it and say I’m sorry I missed the date. Happens to all of us. All good.

Why The 24-Hour Rules Are Good Practice

Both are methods of demonstrating emotional intelligence to others, albeit in different ways.

By practicing the first 24-Hour Rule, you show respect for your relationships by not communicating with others when you are in an overly emotional state, in which case you could end up saying things you don't mean or are which are hurtful. You prevent the Amygdala hijack.

By practicing the second 24-hour rule, you show respect for the relationships you have by being responsive to their outreaches to you. You show you value their time and needs of you by being responsive to their outreach.


Practicing both rules demonstrates the importance of emotional intelligence in relationships.

Neither of these rules is rocket science. They are simple but not always easy.

By practicing both of these, people will appreciate you, and you will set yourself apart from many people just by being proficient in practicing the basics, which is why this post is part of our Back 2 Basics series.

Back 2 Basics Social Media Series

Whether you are a seasoned professional or an employee just out of college, it never hurts to return to the basics. A good way to harvest new insights is to maintain a beginner’s mindset. This is the sentiment behind my “Back 2 Basics” Social Media Series. We go back to the basics to refresh and perhaps find new insights.

About The Nexus Initiative

The Nexus Initiative is a boutique Executive Coaching and Advisory firm based on real-world operating experience. If you know someone looking for a trusted confidant with real-world operating experience to be their coach, please refer them to my website to set up a discovery call.

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