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Monday, April 30, 2018

Timing Timing Timing

A funny thing happened on the way to heaven recently.  I went to a graveside memorial to support a long-time friend  I didn't know his mom well, but you know memorials are as much for the living as the deceased.  Anyway, I was warned that with the recent rains that the ground could be a bit sloppy and that you might want to wear tennis shoes or boots.  Anyway, I didn't hear that until after I wore my nice black Izod dress shoes to work.  I couldn't stop back at home, so I did the next best thing--looked for a place with inexpensive shoes on the way there.  I ended up stopping at a Goodwill store and buying some plain back dress shoes that were a little wide.  They weren't that expensive and they weren't as fancy as my Izod shoes, so I wouldn't be too annoyed if they got messy or ruined..  As it turned out,  I would have been fine with my original shoes, so I felt like I wasted money.

However, timing is a funny thing.  A week or so later, I went to a Cardinals game in which my daughter sang "Take me out to the ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch.   On the way back to the parking lot, I stepped off the sidewalk wrong, buckling my ankle underneath and collapsing my full body weight on it, like a sack of potatoes.  But, as luck would have it recently got the wider black dress shoes.  So, I was able to wear shoes with a swollen sprained ankle.  In other words, the timing of the seemingly unnecessary shoe purchase was perfect.  This gets me back to the larger point: Life is all about time.  

In life we can want to say or do something which is otherwise appropriate, but if said or done with the wrong timing it may not be for the best.  For example, right after your child trips and does a face-plant on the stairs and needs stitches would probably not be the best time to tell her that she needs to make sure her shoes are tied and to watch where she is going.  Likewise, telling a widowed friend they need to go out and meet people new people would be good advice, a couple years out, but a couple weeks out of losing their spouse, not so much.

I don't claim to be an expert on timing, but here are a few thoughts on the subject matter (when it relates to dealing with others).
  • Sometimes there is never going to be good timing.  You risk being seen as wrong whenever you say or do what you need to.
    • When telling a friend or loved one a hard truth, there is no getting around the fact that no matter when you say it, they may not take it well.  
    •  If saying what you need to won't ever go down well, there is little point in waiting as you are just prolonging your tension and delaying the inevitable.
  • Sometimes, a loved one is venting and they really aren't looking for a solution or being related to.  They just want to share their pain so they can process it.  Now, at a later point, they might be open to your input.  But, sometimes people don't want 'answers' or being 'related to'.  Sometimes they just want to be heard at the current time.
    • This can be frustrating for the listener if they want to help or if they are tired of hearing complaining and no action.
    • It isn't always immediately obvious that the one who is venting just wants to be heard.  So, it could be best to wait for a cue.

--

Looking for the right time to say or do what you need to ask the following questions:
    • Is it really something that needs addressed or is it just something think you want to address.
      • If I am venting to a friend about about being broke, I probably am just complaining.  I don't specifically expect the friend to loan me money or give me advice on how to avoid being broke in the future.  So, my friend might feel like he/she needs to give me advice or offer me money to 'fix' the situation, but I'm not really looking for that.
      • If I twist my ankle severely, even  if I think it is not broken, I probably should get an X-Ray to be safe.
    • Is there ever a good time for the action/words you 'need' to do or say?
      • When a family is struggling with a chemical dependency or gambling, he or she may not be open to hearing how they are destroying themselves.  
      • The reason interventions are so stressful is because the one being intervened for isn't exactly thinking that they want or need it.
    • What are the possible cost of saying/doing it now?
      • Losing or risking losing a relationship sooner.
        • If you tell confront a loved one about their dependency sooner rather than waiting, you may also face a fallout sooner.
      • Going with incomplete information and misreading the situation.
        • After a particularly bad breakup, I may feel ready to date again soon.  However, it is possible that by waiting a little bit I'd see that maybe I'm not.
    • What is the cost of delaying saying/doing it until later?
      • You could come across as indecisive or unwilling to do what needs to be done.
        • In a family, that could undermine your authority or your word.
        • As a leader, that could give aid and comfort to our enemies.
      • The situation you needed to address may have boiled over or reached a head.
        • Your finances may have gone from difficult to completely unmanageable if you wait to address them.
        • An addict you needed to confront may have overdosed while you pondered when the 'right' or 'best' time to confront them was. 
    • What is the benefit of saying doing what you need to now vs. later?
      • The weight or stress associated with making the decision will dissipate.  It might be replaced with the consequences of the decision, but at least the decision-making won't weigh on you. 
      • The outcome or result of the decision often is clear sooner if you make the decision sooner.   Instead of guessing what will happen IF, you stand a better chance of knowing.

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I'm not an expert on timing, but what has always helped me are these two things:
  1. Collecting all the information I reasonably can about the decision--saying or doing what needs to be said/done--before I make the decision.   Read the situation as best as I can and when I think I have enough (or at least as much information as I can get), make the decision and don't look back.  
    • It is easy to second guess when you have more information after the fact, but isn't helpful.
    • Knowing I did the best with the information I had might not make me feel completely better, but at least I'll know I did all that I could.
  2.  Taking myself out of the decision-making process as much as possible.
    • What would I tell someone else to do or say in a given situation?
    • Is my choice based on what is best, what I want or what will 'make me feel better'?
      • Being aware of my measuring stick--in the eyes of my Higher Power...
      • Sure, I could try to help my child in all situations, but sometimes it is best as painful as it is, to allow him/her to make the mistakes.
      • Sure, I could offer someone advice in a given situation, but there is a good chance that he/she might just want to be heard.
    • What does my gut tell me.  Not how I feel, but what I know to be the case.

While I feel like the phrase--timing is everything--is overused.  In may cases, it is either significant or it is everything.  If we are better aware of when timing is important I think we will make better choices.

Just some thoughts.

-- Rich