I remember in middle school we used to get “Interim Reports” half way through each nine-weeks. Not everyone got them though, only those who were struggling to “make the grade”. Interims were the teacher’s way of letting the parents know that their child needed help in a particular subject area before it was too late. The report was sent home with the student, and it had to be signed by their parents and returned to school the very next day.
Because my kids read my blog, I will refrain from saying just how many Interim’s I got during middle school. But the very first time I ever got one, I absolutely dreaded getting my mom’s signature. I had a huge lump in my throat and felt sick to my stomach all the way home from school. That afternoon on the school bus ride home I got the bright idea that I would not show the Interim to my mom that night. Instead, I would wait until the next morning and present it to her just as I was about to walk out the door to catch the bus. This way I could enjoy my evening at home, watch my favorite TV show, and not have to stick around for the confrontation about my poor grades. A perfect plan, right? Not quite…Mamma don’t play!
The next morning I woke up, got ready for school, ate breakfast, and just before heading out the door I handed my mom the Interim Report and said, “Here, you need to sign this so I can bring it back to my teacher today.” She opened the envelope, looked at the report, and said, “Why did you wait until now to give me this?” To which I replied, “Umm, I just forgot.” My mom quickly called me out on the lie and said, “You can tell your teacher that I’m not signing this, and you can just accept whatever consequence she gives you…You know good and well you waited to give me this so you wouldn’t have to deal with the problem!” Needless to say, I got in trouble both at school and at home.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Especially when it comes to difficult conversations. How many times has a conversation with your spouse, your child, your parent, or someone you care about deeply not gone so well, and in retrospect you knew it was primarily due to bad timing? It has happened to me lots, so I’m learning to ask myself “Is this the right time to have this particular conversation?”
In an effort to help me slow down and think before I speak, I’ve discovered that there are about 8 Types of Conversations I have throughout the day:
1. The “Just Walked In The Door” Conversation – When someone is just walking through the door, the last thing they want is to be hit with something heavy to think about or discuss. What they really want is a moment to acclimate to whatever environment they just entered.
2. The “Walking Out Of The Door” Conversation – When you’re walking out the door to go somewhere, your brain is already shifting gears to “what’s next” and you are literally and figuratively closing the door on what just happened…the last thing you want is to slam into reverse, especially when you’re running on a schedule.
3. The “Phone Call During The Day” Conversation – When you call someone during the day, whether you’re at work or they are, or both, this is not the time to dive into something deep or something that needs more than 3-5 minutes of discussion. Instead, this timeframe is best used for a “dashboard conversation”-something that only needs a “touching base.”
4. The “Text” Conversation – Some people communicate better through texting than others do. However, because you cannot see facial expression or read body language, it’s best to stay away from emotionally tense topics during texting. Utilize texting for transmitting factual information only…unless of course you’re sending romantic texts to your spouse 🙂
5. The “Let’s Go To Lunch” Conversation – When you ask someone to lunch, it says “I’ve set aside time for you-I’m making this a priority in my day.” However, conversations at lunch are best when the subject matter can be easily brought to a head AND resolved in an hour. Moreover, you want to make sure that your topic fits your environment.
6. The “Dinner Table” Conversation – The dinner table is a great place to share about your day, but it’s also the place where conflict sometimes surfaces. Be careful here! If you’ve got a topic to discuss that you know could potentially ruin someone’s meal or bring others into the problem that don’t need to be burdened with it, save your conversation for the #7 or #8 environments below. Dinner is a great time to share and encourage; be careful of using it to criticize, challenge, and chastise.
7. The “Sit On The Back Porch With A Cup Of Coffee” Conversation – A hot cup of coffee brings comfort to the soul (that’ll tweet). Sitting on the back porch brings comfort, too. If you’ve got a tough conversation to have, this could be the place to do it. It’s a great place to discuss what you’re thinking and feeling and the things that are troubling you. It’s also a great environment to ask tough questions and give the proper space to work through difficult conversations.
8. The “Lying In Bed Late At Night” Conversation – There are certain topics that you just can’t help but take to bed at night because they affect your soul. Some things keep you awake at night because they are bigger than you can handle or solve-they are more “global issues” than they are day-to-day topics. This is a great time to be vulnerable and share your heart…but pay attention to just how tired the other person is-the last thing you want to do is start a deep conversation and have the other person fall asleep!
Now, I realize that you cannot systematize life or always control conflict and difficult conversations. Nor should you use the 8 items above to manipulate people in an effort to get your way. However, it’s good to think before you speak. Play the movie forward and ask yourself the question, “Is this the right time to have this particular conversation?” Slowing down and considering this question may very well save you some heartache and relational damage because after all, TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
Think about it.