Timing in Communication

Clocks

Recently my husband and I were driving somewhere and I noticed that, … let me put it this way, his frame of mind wasn’t the best. But I like to take advantage of drive time to connect and talk with him, so I began to share with him an idea I had for a project we’re going to be doing together soon.

Not such a good idea.

We ended up going in circles (crazy cycle) as I felt Gary was getting increasingly frustrated with me and I, in turn, was probably coming across defensive—which ramped up the potential for an argument.

We eventually sorted things out, but only after a very bumpy start! And this situation reminded me of the importance of timing in communicationespecially with a spouse or close loved one.

I’m a firm believer that if a conflict has deteriorated into an argument, you need to both respectfully agree to discuss it later when your brain can reason.

Why do I say that? Can’t our brains always reason?

Well, no ...

If you feel threatened or angry, a part of your brain, the amygdala, gets what psychologist’s refer to as “hijacked.” And according to research, when our amydgdala is hijacked the rational part of our brain becomes paralyzed. Furthermore, it actually takes three to four hours for those hijacking hormones to dissipate!

So taking a break from the conflict and resuming later once you’ve gained perspective is key.

You probably don’t have the perspective in the moment to see your contribution and that’s crucial to working through the conflict successfully!

Not only is timing key in knowing when to shelve a conflict till a later time, but also in approaching sticky topics. One of my mistakes in the situation above was how I didn’t assess the best timing for bringing up my topic. I could tell that my husband wasn’t in “the best frame of mind” and yet I brought up something that might have represented pressure to him.

So a good rule of thumb for approaching a conversation during a not-so-good-time is to ask yourself, Will my spouse possibly feel pressured by this or disagree with it?

If the answer is “yes,” then save the topic for a time when you both are rested and in a good frame of mind.

So what do you typically do when your amygdala gets hijacked?

Do you have any other good rules of thumb for “timing” in times of communication or conflict?

“There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.” Proverbs 29:20 (NLT)

“Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!” Proverbs 15:23 (NLT)

photo by blue2likeyou’s

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Linking up with – NOBH, Momma Notes, Marriage Mondays, Marriage Moments Monday, Making Your Home Sing Monday, Living Proverbs 31, Playdates with God and Marriage Mondays

  • This is terrific, Beth. I have been guilty of this both with my hubbie and my kids. I realized some time ago I actually have what I’ll now call a “hijacking radar”. I will think about starting a topic, and sometimes my inner alarm will ring loud and clear to warn me against speaking.
    Sad to say, I don’t always pay attention because I want to talk about that topic NOW. And no, it never ends well when I do that.
    I am going to share this with my family for awareness (we love talking about human behavior) so we can do a better job and especially understand what is going on with someone else.
    Thanks so much!

  • Just last week, Beth, our amygdalas got hijacked at Longings End!

    And my post today is based on some things we learned! I always knew that anger has one root in our physiology. Now I guess it’s learning to pick up on the warning signs to avoid the confrontation.

    Thanks…and once again I feel like we are writing on similar topics at the same time. HAPPY MONDAY, Beth!

  • Mai

    Hubby and I know that communication is one of the many important aspect of a healthy marriage. And sad to say, when we are back to being best friends again after our argument, my hubby will tell me, “hun, we have to improve in our communication skills.” I don’t find this as a warning but a sort of relief! I’m happy that though in times of misunderstanding, my spouse and I are still aware that, YES, we can improve on this aspect given more time and perfect TIMING! 🙂

  • Um, I definitely hear you on this one. And relate. Timing can be everything. Sometimes I dive in even though I know timing isn’t best, but I usually regret it. Praying for wisdom (and patience!) on using God’s timing more.

  • ooh yes, doesn’t that defensiveness and frustration and insistence on wading through the mess RIGHT NOW make a toxic soup! step away, step away … let’s talk later, ok?
    ;-}

  • John Wilder

    It is imperative to speak with a gentle voice and the bible says that: A soft answer turns away anger.

  • I’m glad you found this interesting and helpful for spurring more conversations on with your family. I have family that likes to talk about these kinds of topics as well. And I also have family that wants to try to continue to talk about an issue in conflict even when both parties are clearly feeling anger or fear. It is hard when you’re feeling like this one more point will make it clear to our argument partner and resolve the log jam. But it rarely if ever does! Thanks for your kind words and presence here today, my friend!

  • I can’t wait to get over there to your place and read it, Sheila. We do seem to think along the same lines. Perhaps we’ve found the same truths in our marriages along the way. Happy Monday to you too, Shelia! Thanks for coming by and encouraging me!

  • Yes, there are lots of important things to learn to do during conflict to communicate better. My husband and I are always working on these kinds of strategies, since even after 26 years of marriage we are still “works in progress” when it comes to navigating conflict! I’m so glad this is just one more thing that can help you and your hubby work successfully through conflicts, Mai. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, my friend!

  • Yes, that’s my prayer too, Lisa. I want to be more sensitive to that inner voice that tells me to “pray about this before proceeding!” Then when the time is right, it always goes so much better. Thanks for stopping by my friend!

  • I think that couples who are already fragmented and distant really get into this trap much more than those who are closer, since it’s often fueled by the need to bridge the gap, Linda. But in an effort to bridge the gap, we make matters worse by plowing through without a calm and respectful spirit. I’m certain you’ve dealt with more than your share of those kinds of folks and scenarios in your counseling practice, right? 🙂 And please know that I’m always so thankful for your kind support here, my friend.

  • OutnumberedMom

    As they say, Timing is everything! What do I do? When I have sense enough to realize where it’s going, I try to laugh about it. Humor usually helps us, anyway.

  • Kim Adams Morgan

    Beth, when I was newly married, this little timing light bulb did not go off with me for quite some time. I kept wondering what just happened. Duh! We can laugh about it now, but not so funny then. Great post. Kim

  • Great thoughts here Beth! And I love the NLT translation Prove 29:20!
    I agree that timing is so crucial! I think patience (the lack of it, that is) is the #i reason i try to push for discussions in the wrong times. And being a person that likes to “conclude” matters doesn’t help! There’s nothing as terrible as starting off the wrong foot and then going on to stubbornly push towards a cliff! Am learning though 🙂 and am so glad am not where I used to be!

  • Yes, I’ve experienced the hijacking of my amygdala :). Wisdom whispered to me a long time ago that when this happens, “laura, go take a walk.” It helps. Good advice, Beth 🙂

  • My husband and I set aside time weekly to discuss potential problems in our marriage, areas where we’d like to grow, and how to keep growing in the areas we’re doing well in. I’ve definitely experienced the hijack moment where my brain and heart flipflop and I let my emotions dictate my words and actions. My husband and I also spend time talking about how we can help avoid conflict and what to do when conflict does arise so that we’re both prepared beforehand instead of trying to solve everything and understand perspective in the heat of the moment. It’s not a perfect system, but it does help us to peacefully resolve issues that we otherwise couldn’t.

  • Yes, I was actually going to title this post that, Laura Lee, because it is so very important! I think that’s great that you and your hubby can laugh about things during those times. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  • Yeah, I’ve been that way all along–not always aware in the moment. I know that timing is important, but I get caught up in sharing something and don’t stop to think about where my spouse is emotionally. It’s so crucial! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, Kim!

  • Yes, I compared this verse in many versions and really liked the way the NLT said it, Ngina. And yes, good point–impatience is often the problem for me and my husband as well when we are trying to sort through an issue. It’s something that we need to work on. Thanks for bringing up such good points and observations, my friend.

  • Yes, I hear that same voice telling me much the same thing, Laura. I guess we need to be still and really listen to Him! ha! Thanks for being so vulnerable and encouraging here in this place, my friend!

  • Yes, Hannah, my husband and I have what we call “Talk Time” each week. We find it so crucial to feeling connected, encouraging one another and occasionally working through difficulties. But there are times when I’m too impatient to wait till that designated time. 🙂 I guess, I need to be more strategic! I’m so glad that you and your hubby are doing something that really took my husband and me nearly 15 years to realize we needed. Thanks for stopping by, my friend!

  • Delora Peters

    “There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.” Proverbs 29:20 (NLT) said it all for me! I am dealing with thinking before I speak so this blog was timely for me. Thanks for always providing such great information on real topics.

  • Rhiannon

    I sometimes forget to wait until a good time and I always regret it. I think to communicate when one or both of you are in a negative state is just asking for trouble. I feel that I can trust myself to know when it’s a good time. Thank you for the reminder.