Take time out: How not to say or do things we later regret

Some conflicts become heated as levels of anger and frustration rise. Rather than speaking assertively, partners begin to accuse, criticise, or yell. Rather than listening actively, partners interrupt, belittle, and ignore.

Physiologically, the “fight or flight” response is triggered as each person goes into a protection mode with little or no regard for their partner. In this state of escalation, it is not uncommon to say or do things we later regret. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to have a productive conversation leading to a mutually agreed upon resolution. This is when a “time-out” can be benefificial. A time-out provides couples with an opportunity to cool down, identify their feelings and needs, and begin to think productively again about how to approach the issues they face.

    1. RECOGNIZE your need for a time-out.
    Are your fists clenched? Is your face red? Are you breathing fast? Are the tears streaming down your face? Do you feel like screaming or throwing something? Are you afraid of your partner’s intensity? Do you feel emotionally closed off?
    Learn to recognize the signs that things have become too intense for you to have a productive interaction with your partner.
    What physical and emotional reactions indicate you need a time-out?
    2. REQUEST THE TIME-OUT. Call a time-out for yourself by saying something like “I’m just too angry to talk right now; I need to take a time-out. Please give me an hour to calm down and gather my thoughts.”
    Remember to call the time-out for yourself. It is seldom helpful to tell the other person “You need a time-out!” Suggest a time when you think you’ll be ready to resume.
    3. RELAX AND CALM DOWN. <Take some deep breaths. Go for a jog. Take a walk or a bath. Write in your journal. Read, pray, or watch television for a while.
    Do something that will help you relax and recover from the emotional intensity.
    What method(s) could you use to calm down?
    Try to identify what you were thinking and feeling that became so difficult to discuss.
    Think about “I” messages you could use to tell your partner what you were thinking or feeling, and what you need from him/her.
    Try to spend some quiet time considering your partner’s point of view and what they are feeling.
    Remember the two of you are a team, and the only way your relationship will “win” is if you work toward a solution that both individuals can feel good about.
    5. RESUME THE CONVERSATION. Bring in the skills of Assertiveness and Active Listening and/or the Ten Steps for Conflict Resolution. These structured skills can help contain the intensity as you attempt to resolve a conflict. Honour your commitment to return to the issue when you are ready to have a more productive conversation.

In summary, a time-out provides an opportunity to cool down, identify feelings and needs, and begin to think productively again about how we can more effectively approach the issues. Try it next time there is a heated moment.

More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

Go to: www.intentional-relationship.com

2 thoughts on “Take time out: How not to say or do things we later regret

    1. intentional-relationship.com Post author

      Yes, the following may help…

      4 Tips for Managing Relationship Conflict

      Having an argument does not mean that your relationship is in trouble. Disagreements and differences are an inevitable part of every relationship and what matters is how we discuss and solve disagreements.

      The following four strategies from relationship guru John Gottman will help you break patterns of negativity and take a positive approach to solving problems:

      1. “Calm down”: You can’t resolve your differences productively if your heart is racing and you feel overwhelmed. Before you respond, take a deep breath, count to 5 and think about your response.

      Halt the negative cycle of your thoughts by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. This is often hard to do but by taking a deep breath and calming yourself physically, you have a chance. A proven approach is to repeat back to your partner exactly what you heard. You can then seek to understand what was said, giving yourself time to reflect.

      If the argument starts to get out of hand, ask for a “time out.” Taking 5 to 20 minutes away from your partner will calm you enough to allow you to listen better and discuss the subject objectively rather than emotionally. Soothe yourself by taking deep breaths, a short walk, or even a short drive.

      2. “Speak non-defensively”: Listen and speak in a way that does not engender defensiveness but instead fosters healthy discussion. “Praise and admiration” are the best weapons to keep negative thoughts at bay. Empathize. Realize that your partners anger might be an effort to get your attention. Adopt a receptive body posture and an open facial expression. Limit yourself to a specific complaint rather than a multitude of criticisms. Try these approaches:
      “Remove the blame from your comments.”
      “Say how you feel.”
      “Don’t criticize your partners personality.”
      “Don’t insult, mock or use sarcasm.”
      “Be direct.”
      “Don’t mind-read.”

      3. “Validation”: Validate your partners emotions by looking at the situation from his or her viewpoint. Often, simply empathising is enough. Back you partner – take their side. You don’t have to agree or solve their problem, just validate the feeling. Validation foils criticism, contempt and defensiveness, areas that you should keep out of your relationship. Take responsibility for your words and actions, take a deep breath and listen, and experience the intimacy that ensues. Try it this week and notice the change.

      4. “Keep practicing what you have learnt”: Once you have learned the techniques of fighting fair, practice them over and over until they become second nature. Your objective is to be able to use these techniques during the heat of a battle instead of resorting to your old, ineffective ways.

      Having an argument does not mean that your relationship is in trouble. Disagreements and differences are an inevitable part of life and what matters is how we discuss and solve disagreements.



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