Avoid Conflict Escalation With an Effective “Time Out”
In my last article – How to Use “Time Out” Effectively for Anger Management, I talked about the warning signs that indicate a time out from your conflict might be a good idea…in this article I’ll talk about the steps for taking an effective a time out.
When you find your anger or other emotions escalating to a point where you feel out of control, you can take a time out. If your time out involves another person, you take responsibility for the time out. You are not putting the other person in time out – even if you perceive that your partner or child is the one who is misbehaving.
If you’re going to go to the effort of taking a timeout, you need it to be effective in helping you resolve your conflict. With these steps, you will be able to make good progress.
Steps to an effective time out include:
- Self-Observation: Pay attention to all changes that occur in your thinking, feeling and acting during conflict escalation. These changes serve as cues so you can recognize your location on the conflict escalation sequence. It is important that you know how you feel when you are operating in the safety zone, danger zone, or abuse zone. It is only through self-observation that you know when your level of anger is so high that you need to signal a time out.
- Signaling: The signal you use when you call Time Out needs to be neutral and non-blaming. Making the “T” sign, with one hand placed on top of the other, or simply saying the words “time out” in a neutral tone of voice are both good signals. If, however, the delivery of either of these signals is in a defiant manner, it is not neutral. Announcing that the other person needs to take a time out is blaming. You need to signal based on your own self-observation of your own thinking, feeling and behavior, not that of your partner. You need to deliver the signal promptly, as soon as you are aware that you are entering your danger zone. The sooner you deliver the signal, the more likely your partner will be to acknowledge it and the less time will be required for the Time Out. Do not wait until you have crossed the point of loss of control.
- Acknowledging: Once your partner has signaled a Time Out, you then acknowledge by signaling back and then you silently detach. Simply returning the “T” signal or saying “OK” are both good ways to acknowledge that you received the signal and that you will comply. No additional talking or touching is to take place. It is most important to follow this process regardless of whether or not you agree that the Time Out is necessary. This should be discussed later.
- Detaching: At this point, each partner goes to a “neutral zone.” Discuss and agree in advance where the neutral zones are and what rules are to be followed while there. Such issues as use of the car, talking on the phone, or leaving the property should be resolved in advance. It is best to be out of each other’s sight but sill in each other’s presence. If you called the time out promptly, it is not necessary to drive away or to lock doors. Such behaviors actually increase the level of anger and/or apprehension. Do not, under any circumstances, intrude in your partner’s space by following him or her from room to room or attempt to keep him or her from leaving. This behavior escalates the level of anger and/or apprehension. Once you call the Time Out you need to promptly detach.
There are two other, very important steps for an effective Time Out that I’ll discuss in my next article: Controlling Anger and Returning from Time Out.
This is an excerpt from my book “Embracing Change From the Inside Out”
If you’re ready to make life changes from the inside out contact me, I will help you understand how to make those changes.
You can also contact me to speak at your next event, I will adjust my topic to the needs of your audience.