Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Preventing defeat by calling a timeout

(Article submitted to Xenia-Gazette)

You know what a “timeout” is, right? Sports teams call them to stop the clock, to regroup, to interrupt their opponents’ momentum, to clarify strategy or to just catch their breath.

As an athlete and occasional coach myself, I have appreciated the value of timeouts. Amazing how helpful a break in the action can be, sometimes spelling the difference between victory or defeat.

Speaking of defeat, how many couples or family members could benefit from “calling timeout” in the midst of a heated conflict? How effective is it to keep going at each other when both partners are obviously in their emotional brain? The same questions are relative for any setting where conflicts can get out of hand, such as work, church, groups or teams.

Many Proverbs address the value of emotional de-escalation. For example, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). “Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger” (29:8). “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (29:11). “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins” (29:22).

The New Testament also emphasizes the need for controlling anger. “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26, 27). “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8). “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (I Timothy 2:8).

So how do these clear exhortations relate to taking a “timeout”? The purpose is to give our “emotional brain” time to cool down so that our “thinking brain” can become productive again. The fact is, we do and say things when angry and emotionally stirred up that we later regret and wish we could reverse. Here are several practical tips on taking a timeout:

Call a timeout when . . . 1) conflict has escalated to yelling, interrupting or belittling, 2) you are aware of significantly increased heart rate or breathing rate, or 3) you feel like screaming, hitting or damaging something.

Call a timeout by . . . 1) saying “I need a timeout to calm down and collect my thoughts”; avoid saying “YOU need a timeout!”, 2) suggesting a time to re-connect (30 minutes to an hour); don’t just leave without saying when you’ll return, and 3) spending time in an activity that helps you calm down (such as journaling, listening to music, running, etc.).

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is “doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results”. Sanity would be trying a new approach . . . like calling a timeout when emotions have run over the banks of rationality and self-control.

So, you know what a timeout is, right? Calling one at the right time might help you prevent defeat.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Five year anniversary of key marriage document

(Submitted as press release to Springfield News Sun and The Springfield Paper)

On September 17, 2004 forty-seven religious leaders signed a Community Marriage Policy at Elderly United to “raise the standard” of marriage.

The number of Clark County signers is now approximately 140, with an additional 50 or so each in adjoining Greene and Champaign Counties.

Pastor John Essig of Fellowship Christian Church in Springfield, an original signer, writes: “It is hard to calculate all the benefits from 5 Years of CMP. One thing is sure, that we are far better with it. My hope is that we invest again as we build for another 5 years of CMP cooperation.”

CMP signers pledged to encourage a one year courtship, provide premarital preparation for 4 to 6 months and raise up marriage mentor couples to provide mentoring for all stages of marriage.

Lavern Nissley, Executive Director of Marriage Resource Center, sees the CMP as crucial for ongoing marriage stability: “We estimate that some 700 marriage failures didn’t happen as a result of this collaboration.”

The original CMP with signatures is displayed at Marriage Resource Center of Miami Valley, 616 North Limestone in Springfield. A listing of signers, photos and videos are posted at http://www.marriageresourcecenter.org/.