“Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time.” (Proverbs 15:23)
“Why doesn’t anyone listen to what I say?” My complaint probably sounded like a broken record to my husband. Frustration over someone failing to heed my advice resulted once again in stimulating this repeated source of relational frustration.
Then awareness hit me like a punch in the face. If multiple people from a variety of settings and types of relationships seem not to listen to me, perhaps the problem lies with me and not with others.
Some people have a terrific sense of timing in conversations. Whether funny or serious, the flow seems as natural as breathing. Other people struggle finding the “right” words, which often come long after the conversation ends. Ill-timed humor only amplifies uncomfortable and awkward feelings.
For a while, past mistakes in conversations were just too painful to risk repeating. Additionally, extreme sensitivity created a constant awareness of every interruption, every misplaced comment, and certainly every blank stare of confusion. So, to minimize these miscues in timing, I simply avoided face-to-face conversations.
As you might guess, avoiding talking to others is pretty impossible. Sure, I can do a lot of communicating via electronic methods, but they in no way substitute for the richness of connection made when talking to someone while at the same time experiencing the fullness of their presence.
Instead of allowing struggles with timing in conversations to suffocate relationships, either by lack of awareness or through over-sensitivity, a better approach involves taking time to increase understanding of timing in conversations. Perhaps in doing so, I can finally discover victory within this struggle.
Timing involves when something happens or is done or said, especially when that timing is thought of as having a good or bad effect on the result. Timing also involves the ability to choose the best moment for some action, movement, words, etc.
Timing within conversations significantly impacts the success or failure of the contained communication. It also involves well-timed orchestration of the elements involved in successful communication.
As I thought about past failed communication, I realized that my poor timing had a huge impact. And that poor timing usually took place because one or more of the following were happening.
- Failing to fully listen because I’m thinking of what I want to say next.
- Getting distracted and not hearing what was said.
- Talking before letting the other person finish talking.
- Focusing on giving advice rather than on understanding.
- Letting my emotions take over my flow of words.
Knowing that any one of these can knock the timing of a conversation off kilter, being aware of each conversation malady provides a first step for improving my timing when talking with others.
Poor timing with our words involves a myriad of factors. Poor social skills, loneliness, and selfishness all impact a person’s timing when they talk to others. Being uninterested in others, having a lack of confidence, and feeling intimidated can also impact how well we pace conversations.
Understanding that one or more factors may be at play in those to whom we are speaking helps in employing patience, but realizing these issues may also exist within ourselves can help in making necessary adjustments for at least improving our end of the flow of communication.
Once awareness and understanding begin, we can then apply the following Biblical principles.
- Listen first and more. (Proverbs 18:13)
- Let relationships develop. (Proverbs 6:1-5)
- Use good sense. (Proverbs 11:12)
- Think first. (Proverbs 13:3 & 29:20)
- Use less words. (Proverbs 17:27-28)
- Be slow to speak. (James 1:19-20)
Notice that much of what Scripture reveals about timing involves not speaking but instead deliberately focusing on others in the conversation. Maybe this is because our words simply don’t matter when others don’t feel heard in a way that shows their value.
Focusing on understanding provides the key to proper timing in conversations. Sure, other people’s baggage impacts the conversation too, but your honing of timing certainly increases the probability of understanding and growth.