In a relationship, the timing of what you say may be at least as important as what you say. For example, right after your spouse drops and breaks her/his favorite coffee cup is not a good time to say, “You need to be more careful in the morning,” or “You have too many cups anyway. Don’t worry about it.”
When you hear the cup break, get out of your chair and get the broom and dust pan. When a favorite anything is broken by your spouse, it’s best to just shut up, get up, clean up, and give her/him a hug when you are finished cleaning up. Buy her/him a new favorite cup and move forward.
• When anyone is upset about anything, silence is OK. Hugs and being a very good listener are better than words, at least for a few minutes or longer — until the other person calms down at least a little bit.
• Timing is also important and different when you are dealing with a very angry person. For example, if your spouse has just accidentally hit his/her thumb with a hammer and thrown the hammer on the floor, it is not a good time to say, “What are you doing?” or “Yelling will not help!”
• When I hit my thumb, I don’t want anyone near me, and a lecture is the very last thing I need to hear. Cursing or yelling helps me survive. I wonder why God has forsaken me, and I may use God’s name — but not in a religious context!
• It takes me about 2-5 minutes to get the anger out of my system, and then I am OK again. But I need my five private minutes. Ranting and raving for five lousy minutes doesn’t seem too much to ask!
• It’s always dangerous, and often dumb, to generalize about human behavior. However, my life experience tells me that most women do not give themselves permission to rant and rave as often as men are inclined to do.
• Women seem surprised that a lot of men, if not most men, do not want to hug or even be touched when very angry. Women see throwing things or cussing as immature behavior, solving nothing.
• I recommend to women that, when they see their spouse cussing and ranting, stay away from him for five or 10 minutes, and shut up.
• Timing in communication is important in social settings, too. If you decide to question or criticize your spouse in public or at a social gathering, there will be a price to pay after you get home.
• No one likes to be criticized or be questioned when other people are around. A boss who criticizes an employee in front of other employees needs to take a course titled “common sense.”
• A spouse who constantly criticizes his/her spouse in public is probably angry about other important issues and needs to iron out these issues — but not in public.
• One of the dumber things I do at home is often asking Monika, “Do you need any help?” when she is working on a project. Of course she needs help and would appreciate it.
• Women are more inclined to just help each other without asking, “Do you need help?” They just help.
• Maybe guys ask, “Do you need help?” hoping that she will say “no.” Somehow we think that asking gets us off the hook when she says “no.” Come on, guys, just get your butt out of your chair and help!
Bob Billingsley is a columnist at the Mountain Democrat. His column appears bi-weekly.