Be Wise and Use a Time-Out

One of the most common mistakes that people make during relational conflicts is refusing to use time-out procedures.  People often stay in a distressing situation much too long.  For example, two people disagree and begin to argue.  They verbalize uncomfortable and upsetting words while anger escalates in both individuals.  Each person feels compelled to express personal viewpoints in an attempt to be heard and understood.  Both are convinced that his or her perceptions are accurate.  Their sense of powerlessness increases and anger escalates.  If one of them does not use an effective time-out, the outcome of broken communication and wounded relationship become inevitable.

Unfortunately, some people falsely believe that one should “stay and fight”.  They may accuse the other person of being weak or non-caring, and unfair for timing out.  However, the biochemical reality is that the more anger escalates within our body, the less capacity we have for rational problem solving.

The word “time out” connotes an image of some adult ordering a misbehaving child to sit in a corner or be isolated in a room for discipline.  That is not what I am recommending when intense conflict erupts.  The time out is self-imposed and is a tool to reverse the sympathetic nervous system surge of adrenalin.  It prevents escalation of aggression.

An effective time-out procedure can preserve the relationship and provide an emotional avenue for healthy conflict resolution.  Time-out involves three vital steps:

(1)  An honest statement that you are angry and you need to take a break to calm down.  Do not blame the other person.

(2)  Leave the scene, do not stay in the immediate distressing situation.  State that you will talk about the conflict at a later time.

(3)  Use tension-reducing techniques and deep breathing for at least 15 minutes.  Do hard physical exercise such as walking, running, dancing, lifting, followed by deep breathing.

After you have become calmer and more emotionally balanced, then go to the other individual and set a time to discuss the conflict issue and prepare to listen.  This approach can eliminate hours of emotional pain and provides opportunity for wholeness.  Try it – you’ll like it!!!!!!!

Ponder the Proverb:  “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”   Proverbs 29:11

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Dr. David R. Leaman

Dr. David R. Leaman is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He had been in private practice in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania 1981-2013. Dr. Leaman is a frequent lecturer and professional trainer, nationally and internationally. He conducts workshops and seminars on a variety of mental health issues.

Book CoverDr. Leaman is the author of numerous professional articles as well as two books -- Making Decisions: A Guide For Couples; and MY CHILD IS ANGRY...AND SO AM I: Guiding Youth in Expressing Anger Constructively.

Using humor and cogent illustrations, Dr. Leaman presents vital principles for experiencing an emotionally healthy life.  Whether listening to Dr. Leaman as an event speaker, or attending one of his in-depth training seminars, you will enjoy learning about yourself in a gentle way and developing valuable insights for life.

Dr. Leaman and his wife, Joyce, are a dynamic counseling duo. They have been creating and leading family seminars and marriage enrichment weekends for over 35 years. Visit Dr. Leaman's website for more information.