Post by Frances Cole Jones, contributing Women On Business writer
“Timing: the alpha and omega of aerialists, jugglers, actors, diplomats, publicists, generals, prize fighters, revolutionists, financiers, dictators, lovers.”
Marlene Dietrich didn’t speak often, but in this instance it was worth waiting for.
Because although most of us pay lip service to the idea of “waiting until the time is right,” we also live in a culture of immediate gratification, which I believe has thrown off our sense of timing. While we now recognize that human beings needed an extraordinary amount of internal recalibration with the advent of electricity–which took us off a sunrise to sunset work schedule– we haven’t considered, “What does having everything happen instantly do to our mental and physical processes– and what does it do to our sense of timing?”
In my experience, it can cause distortion in our judgment—ranging from the slight to the extreme—but inevitably causing an enormous amount of unnecessary push/pull within our relationships.
For instance, we send someone an email requesting their participation, reaction, decision, and because we know when we sent it, we have a pre-conceived idea about when we might hear back from them. When we don’t, we begin our internal storytelling, ‘He must be thinking this,” “She must be doing that.”
And while this might seem a small thing, it’s small like a hangnail: until it’s addressed, it occupies an inordinate amount of our mental space.
Added to this is that as we move through our days we are often so consumed with the minutiae of our own life that we forget to consider the timing of the other person’s day, or life, and so, become offended or upset when our question is rebuffed or our offer is rejected.
For example, we might call a long-term customer on the day his annual report is due, and take it personally when he doesn’t have the bandwidth to give us feedback on our new product offering, or we might take rejection personally when a new sales call tells us it’s not a good time, not knowing that he’s late for his anniversary dinner.
We don’t recognize that these are important plot points in the other person’s life.
So how can you begin to raise your awareness of the importance of timing in a relationship? One way is to watch a little more TV or a few more movies. (I bet you didn’t see that coming.) I recommend this because most of have heard of television shows and screenplays having ‘beats’: moments within their structure where we feel the need for something to happen. Beginning to think of a relationship having ‘beats’ is one way to step back from the particulars of the situation and look at the larger whole.
What’s an example of ‘beats’ with a movie? Well, screenplay calculator offers the following formula for a screenplay of 110 pages:
- Opening Image: pg 1
- Establish Theme: pgs 1 – 5
- Setup: pgs 1 – 10
- Inciting Incident: 12
- Debate – Half Commitment: pgs 12 – 25
- Turn to Act II: 25
- Subplot intro by: pg 30
- Fun – Games – Puzzles: pgs 30 – 55
- Tentpole – Midpoint – Reversal: pg 55
- Enemy Closes In: pgs 55 – 75
- Low Point: pg 75
- Darkest Decision: pgs 75 – 85
- Turn to Act III: pg 85
- Finale – Confrontation: pgs 85 – 107
- Aftermath: pgs 107 – 110
- Final Image: pg 110
As you can see, there are multiple moves within the narrative. Similarly, there are likely to be multiple moves within your relationship with another person. Learning to recognize these will help you to know when to show up with the gift, and when to withdraw the olive branch; when to hang back and let time go by, and when to lean in and ask for the favor, the money, the deal—could, in fact, cause you– when someone doesn’t offer you the immediate response you seek—to ask yourself, “Hmmm, I wonder where they are in their thinking/their day? Although I see this as an ‘inciting incident,’ they might be midway through ‘fun, games, and puzzles’ in another conversation; or contemplating their version of today’s ‘darkest decision.’”
Keeping these beats in mind is likely to ensure greater proportionality in the beats of your day, and your life.
Chrysty Fortner says
Great analogy…and so true that I skip through my day assuming it and everything in it is all about me. Good thoughts for today. Breathe.
Catherine Cantieri, Sorted says
What a perceptive post! I too tend to assume that someone’s lack of response is all about me — although intellectually I know better. It’s so good to keep the importance of timing in mind. Thanks for this post.