7 Tips for Healthy Communication – Number Two Try Waiting Periods

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”
-Rollo May

Welcome to the second post in my seven part series on healthy communication. If you missed the first post you can read it here. Over the course of this series, I am exploring the importance of effective communication and providing you with the skills to improve it.

As the quote above says, we need open communication in order to foster intimacy. Not just romantic intimacy but also closeness with family, friends, and even coworkers. One way we can increase closeness is with active listening. Often, what we really need is to just be heard. However, other people don’t always know how to make us feel heard. Rather than expecting other people to read your mind, you can ask them to engage in active listening.

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2. Try Waiting Periods

When someone tells you something you are doing that bothers them, what is your first response? For most people, they respond by immediately jumping in, getting defensive, or apologizing profusely. See if you can change this dynamic by using waiting periods.

When you have something big to tell someone you might say: “I have something I want to talk to you about and I am hoping that I can say it and have you wait until I am completely finished to respond. I will tell you when I am ready for you to respond. Is that ok with you?” Here you are letting the other person know a waiting period would be helpful. You are also telling them how they will know when you are ready for them to talk. Finally, you are asking for their “buy in” by making sure they agree to the waiting period.

You can try experimenting with waiting periods. You might ask someone to wait until you are finished talking, wait twenty minutes, or even up to one day to respond. Whatever length of time you choose it should be agreed upon ahead of time by both people.

This dynamic of waiting is unusual for normal conversation, so you might want to explain to the other person why you are asking them to do this. You could tell them that it will enable you to feel heard and thus make you feel closer to them. Or explain it however feels right to you!

Practice this Skill

The next time you have something you want to talk to them about you can try practicing the following steps.

  1. Take a moment to pause and reflect on what you want to talk about. Consider how you are going to word it and make sure you are using “I” statements.
  2. Decide how much time you will ask the other person to wait until they respond to what you say. Do you need them to wait until you’re done talking, wait ten minutes, two hours, one day?
  3. Think about how the other person will know when you are ready for them to respond. Are you going to tell them “I am ready for you to respond now” or are you going to decide on an exact time to come back together for the response?
  4. When you feel ready, open up communication with the other person. You might say to them: “I have something I would like to talk to you about and I am hoping you can wait _____ (amount of time) before responding. You will know I am ready for you to respond because ______ (fill in with what you decided in step three). Are you willing to try that with me?”
  5. Optional: You might want to explain to the person why you are asking them to do this. You can say something like “having this waiting period will allow me to feel heard because I can speak more freely” or “I would really appreciate this time for you to just listen”.

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