When I was with the circus timing was everything: I watched how important split-second timing was for acrobatic acts, the timing of a dangerous act like the tightrope walker or the Lion & Tiger acts; the timing of a clown gag; the timing of scheduling cities to perform in as we were a large tented show that traveled overnight by truck three times a week to get to the next city; and the timing of the advertising and promotion campaigns to bring people to the circus. Timing for the acts was life-and-death timing. Timing for the marketing campaigns that I coordinated meant financial survival through ticket sales.
In everyday life, we hear people say, “Timing is Everything!” And when we’re in the middle of a divorce, timing is crucial. The timing of how and when we respond to our attorneys, our mediators, and our soon-to-be execs when they write toxic texts and emails to us.
Timing is the center piece for Kevin Barclay in his book “Take 10, You Are Only 10 Seconds Away From a Human Connection”. When we receive messages that are high conflict, threatening, mean, and inaccurate, filled with blame for the recipient, our natural reaction is to stop what we’re doing and immediately respond by defending ourselves or blaming back. The communication can quickly turn into a blame fest. Totally unproductive, leaving us emotionally drained and angry.
But, if you take Kevin’s advice and wait at least 10 seconds before attempting return communication, you will have given yourself a little time to breathe, pause, take a time out, and really assess what you want to say and even if you want to say anything. There are two choices when you receive toxic messages: 1) really weigh what is in your best interest to say, and craft a message that defuses the anger in the initial message; 2) don’t respond at all. Remember, you are not obligated to respond to untoward behavior and communication. You can ask for respect in order to participate in a dialogue. And then give respect when you are the one doing the communicating.
Sometimes, the better response would be going totally Switzerland and saying something like this, “I hear you. Let me think about everything and get back to you tomorrow.” What you’ve done is acknowledge that you received the message, and that you have intention to respond. You just want to give yourself time for a proper response. When you go Switzerland, you diffuse the toxicity by not sending back a statement also filled with toxicity, and you’ve given yourself and the situation time to cool down and stay balanced on this tightrope called divorce communication.