I have learned that it is not the time to tell my husband that the car’s low tire pressure indicator light is lit the moment he walks in the door at 6 PM. Just then, he does not want to hear about the leaky faucet upstairs. Or about the lawn that needs to be mowed. Timing matters in communication.
From my Crayola days, I remember a trainer sharing the emotional sponge theory of behavior. During the day, everyone’s emotional sponge absorbs challenges, frustrations, and unmet expectations. As long as there is room in the sponge we deal with each problem constructively. As soon as the sponge reaches its limit, the emotional water overflows, and we revert to whatever bad behavior feels most comfortable, and that go-to response is usually not very constructive. Water is poured into the sponge at home and at work. Our family, our co-workers, our partners, our suppliers, and everyone we come in contact with may add a splash to our sponge.
Difficult conversations are unavoidable, but we can set up an environment where these chats have the best chance of being productive. Find a time when our emotional sponges are most likely empty. Got a tough conversation coming up? Try to push the meeting to the morning, don’t have the conversation late in the day. Or make that call early in the week.
It is natural to want to delay hard discussions, but they tend to go better when everyone is rested.