Way.ca.tion: A rest for the mind; an unconventional method of escaping the moment and returning refreshed and better than before.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
What Is A Time-Out?
I find one of the best and fastest ways to diffuse anger is to do something physical, such as taking a walk or jog, before going back and facing the issue that caused the anger in the first place. Just going to the restroom and splashing water on your face or drinking a glass of water can also be effective. Whatever the case, remind yourself that the key is breaking the cycle of anger by getting away from the source of the anger for the moment and then doing some physical activity that will cause the anger to diffuse from your mind and body. Doing this is is one of the best methods to achieve the ultimate goal of getting past the anger to solve the issue that sparked that anger.
This method of walking away from anger temporarily to give yourself a better chance of coming back and solving the original problem is called "taking a time-out."
What is a time-out?
For the past couple of decades or so, we normally associate the term with behavior modification for children. As the popularity of corporal punishment of children waned, parents and caretakers took up the practice of removing an offending child from an activity and forcing them to spend time silently and by themselves in a corner, on a chair, or in some other isolated place. This children's time-out can be used as a "cooling off" or as a form of punishment in lieu of spanking.
The "cooling off" portion of children's time-out is actually closer to the original concept of time-out as it was known during the period of the early 1960's when the term was coined by Arthur Staats. The original purpose was to provide a means of stepping away from a situation that had engendered high emotions—often anger—to de-escalate those emotions and to gather or to re-center oneself. I often recommend the tool of time-out with couples. However, it is a good tool to use in any situation.
Anger is an escalating emotion. Once the situation escalates, it is difficult for the two parties to a disagreement to hear one another because emotions have taken over. Once emotions take over, nothing can be accomplished.
One should not simply walk away from a tense situation without saying anything, however, if one's intent is to later return with a calmer mind to try to resolve the situation. As opposed to just walking away, it is important when taking a time-out that you specifically state that “we need to take a time-out” or that "we need to take some space for a moment." One may even choose to say, " I want to listen to your concerns because what you say is important to me, but I'm just not able to listen right now. Give me a few minutes." Otherwise, the other party will have no idea why you walked away, and may think it means they have won the point or, even worse, that you have been dismissive and disrespected them. The feelings of dismissiveness can acerbate the other person's anger and/or create a breakdown in trust and goodwill.
It is also important to tell whoever you are in the argument with that you are stepping away for some amount of time such as 20, 30 even 40 minutes. However, whatever time you say it is important to honor what you say. This lends to feelings of safety and trust.
Taking a time-out requires learning self-awareness. Self-awareness is a key in managing anger. It is learning to know oneself and learning to identify what you are feeling, then taking the appropriate action to rectify a situation. Without self-awareness, you can go from 0 to 100 before knowing how or when you got there.
Another important rule to taking time-outs during a heated or heating-up discussion or disagreement is that when you take the space you need to gather your thoughts, you don’t drink alcohol or use any drugs. In addition, once you return to the discussion, check in. Talk about what you were feeling and what made you angry. This check-in can be valuable in practicing communication and discussing emotions rather than using your emotions in an assaulting and aggressive way.
Lastly, there are no rules as to how many time-outs you may take. If you find the discussion is escalating again, just say, “I’m feeling myself getting angry and I need to take another time-out."