Registered: 6 months ago
Time to cool downI sometimes think there are two types of people – those who like to talk things out, even if it comes out badly, and those who would prefer to run a mile than risk having an argument. Those who withdraw from having a tough conversation, or perhaps any conversation at all, are usually not trying to be hurtful. Most commonly, they are endeavouring to protect themselves from a conversation that they believe is hurtful, disrespectful or unproductive. Unfortunately, the problem with doing too much not talk to random people is that this comes across as hurtful or disrespectful to the other person.
It also increases the likelihood of matters remaining unresolved. The truth is that people do need to find a time to talk, but there also needs to be a time to disengage, especially when one person feels like the conversation has become very disrespectful or unproductive. So, how can time-out be used well?
1Firstly, if difficult conversations are arising on a regular basis, simply agreeing with the other person about the need to sometimes stop the conversation can be a good start. If that person is one of those people who find it hard to do so, they may be more open to this if you reassure them that you will find a better time to talk. Some people even use a non-offensive code word or signal as a reminder for both to keep it respectful. Whether you want to use a code word or flap your arms like a chicken, the reminder is up to you both, provided it is not seen as disrespectful.
2Secondly, allow the other person to save face. Although you can sometimes get away with saying, “I am not happy with the way you are speaking to me ...”, I think you are better to criticise both of you saying, “I am not happy with the way we are speaking to each other ..”, or commenting on the situation, “This is not a good time to talk” or “We don’t seem to be getting anywhere at the moment – we need to have a break”.
3My third point is for those dealing with extremely volatile individuals – and that is, when you do break, to ensure that everyone is safe. This may mean removing yourself and others from the physical proximity of that person or engaging others such as other family members, friends or perhaps even the police, to ensure that the volatile person is going to be OK. Here the key is to use time-out before that person totally loses self-control.
4My last point is to find a time to talk things through. For minor upsets, maybe you will both only need a short break. For larger upsets you may need several hours or perhaps even days. The shorter you can make this period the better. When you do reconnect, it is important you do so with a plan. The aim here is not simply to pick up where the argument left off, but to do something different.
Does that person need a lot of understanding first? Do you need to change the time of day or the place where you have such conversations? Are you both stuck in a rut of debating the past and need to move the focus onto the future?
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