The Effective Use of Time-Outs in Conflict Resolution

(An excerpt from Cultivating Love: Enhancing Communication by Dr Ken McGill)

When your communication becomes stalled in conflict and impasses and misunderstanding develop between the two of you, calling a “Time-Out” in order to repair the breakdown could be an effective strategy to help the two of you to get back on track with what you wanted to accomplish in your communication. What follows are guidelines to help you achieve the greatest benefit when one or both of you call and agree to take a time out in your communication process.  Review this document when a Time Out is called.

T   Talk about time outs beforehand, and strategize when, and under what circumstances you will use them. Create guidelines that will make them useful.

I    “I” statements are great ways to communicate that you are worked up, and need to take a break of 20 – 60 minutes to cool off and engage in introspection.

Make sure you withdraw with an explanation. Taking the time out without explaining why you are doing so, and when you will return defeats the purpose.

E   Explore the matter thoroughly, not just your side of the issue. Ask what do I want to convey, what is my spouse wanting me to hear, and what will bring resolution?

Observe what is going on in your body, and come to your own assistance to bring balance to yourself. Breathing and walking help to dispel energy that needs release.

U   Understanding is one of the goals that you wish to achieve when you resume communication. Make sure you are able to articulate your spouse’s point of view.

T   Take time to identify what your thoughts, feelings and what behavior you will request (of yourself and from your spouse) that will bring resolution to the matter.

T   Truth is the best antidote, serum and fertilizer that will facilitate repair, healing and growth from this situation at hand. Make sure you embrace telling the truth.

Offering solutions you have thought about are also effective, and indicate that you are focused on problem resolution versus retaliation because of the impasse.

R   Reconciliation is another goal to aim for, and it is achieved by laying aside wrathful behavior, while simultaneously imparting peaceful behavior. Is this your aim?

E   Empathy means and is accomplished by “projecting myself into what I observe.” In order to do this, I need to see, understand and “get” what my spouse experiences.

P   Prayer and other Spiritual Disciplines (Meditation, Reflection, Silence, Solitude, Sacrifice, Study and Confession) are always helpful and useful in times like these.

A   Asking questions that help you to gain information and knowledge about the issue, and then applying this knowledge constructively, leads to solutions and to wisdom.

I    Integrate what you have heard from God, your Spouse, from Counsel, from the Truth, your recovery, so that insight, power, and tools are part of the new outcome.

R   Restitution, Amends and any other behavioral change that is offered when you resume your conversation is necessary, and will facilitate change, healing and growth.

“It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” – Proverbs 20:3

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out” – Proverbs 20:5

“Gold there is, rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel” – Proverbs 20:15

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity” – Proverbs 21:23


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