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Winning at Working: Time-Out
Winning at Working: Time-Out
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When young children misbehave, parents, teachers, and caregivers frequently insist on a time-out. Think how much better your workplace would be if you initiated the same approach. No, it’s not for your boss or coworkers, it’s for you.

It’s hard to be amenable to reason or hear a contrary point of view when we’re stubbornly clinging to our position. It’s hard to hear a new idea when the change that’s being suggested will negatively impact us. And it’s hard to offer constructive input when we’re approaching the edge of unreasonableness, backed into a corner or seething with frustration.

When you feel like you’re teetering on the edge or spinning toward unproductive emotions, initiate a time-out. You don’t have to call it that, but take a walk around the building, shut your office door, get a cup of coffee, or suggest the group get back together later to continue the discussion.

People who are winning at working use this approach regularly. They self-monitor to determine when they need to step back. They recognize that do-loop debating, trench-dug positions, and hot tempers are not conducive to enhanced decision making, creativity, trust building, or positive work relationships. Not to mention, people stop listening.

They  know the adult equivalent of a temper-tantrum is not quickly forgotten in the workplace, and unprofessional antics can derail a career. But people who are winning at working know something else about time-outs. They know their power. Most of us engage in mental combat when hearing a new idea, a bold suggestion. or an unwelcomed coaching comment. We react on the autopilot of resistance, clinging strongly to what we know and pushing away what we don’t.

But there’s a secret to handling all these emotions in front of your boss, staff, or colleagues. Don’t. Instead, take a time-out. When people have time to consider an idea, absorb a thought, or come around to input, they usually do. On average, it takes 72 hours to go from resisting to considering.

That’s what people who are winning at working know. So, they initiate a time-out to consider what’s being presented when they find themselves resisting, knowing it’s better to say: “Let me think about that,” than become defensive or argumentative.

Their self-imposed time-outs are used to absorb the boss’s seed of an idea, a peer’s suggestion, or a staff member’s feedback. And while they may reject the idea or input, the rejection happens from consideration, not reaction. Yet more often than not, they find that they come around to a different perspective. Sometimes you just need time.

So when you catch yourself resisting, digging in, or losing perspective at work, do what people who are winning at working do take a time-out, and we’ll all be happier.