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 communication—especially 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