As a therapist, I strongly believe in doing my own work. I know that while I often have a lot of information in my head around best practice, it doesn’t always mean I implement it well in my own life. It is much easier, it seems, to support and encourage healthy behaviors when you yourself aren’t triggered or having strong emotional reactions! In my own therapy a few weeks back, I learnt that because I process quickly I often talk quickly, which can be rather overwhelming in my relationships. While I absolutely agree with this, I was finding it hard to catch myself in the moment. Sometimes it feels like I just have so much to say! Funnily enough, just shortly after my session one of my colleagues in a course I am taking said she often uses the acronym WAIT (Why Am I Talking) in her work with others. This really resonated with me because it was so easy to remember and I haven’t been able to stop thinking of it since.
In relationships, particularly in conflict, people often fall into one of two camps. They either over engage or they withdraw. For those who over engage, it can often mean that they process everything out loud which doesn’t necessarily benefit the relationship. What happens is we can flood our partners and not give them a chance to catch up or engage, further promoting our partners to shut down or get louder in order for their voices to be heard. When I heard this acronym it really struck a chord with me. Why am I talking? What am I trying to achieve? Am I actually listening? Is the way I am talking actually getting my point across?
The reason I found this so helpful is it promotes self-reflection and also regulation. When in conversation, positive or conflict based, the point is to be in conversation. In other words, it’s to be in a dialogue that is a two-way street, not one, and not even one and a half. Each person needs to have equal space to share their experiences and to be heard, and it is usually really difficult to hear our partners if we are talking over them. I think we can all learn to take a deep breath and regulate ourselves a little more. Doing so means we engage intentionally and with greater awareness of what we need from the conversation.
This was a really important reminder for me to slow down and to focus my dialogue, particularly in conflict. It is so easy when I feel triggered to spew words out of my mouth, articulate or not, because in the moment it all feels important. You can imagine how overwhelming it is to be on the other side of someone speaking a hundred miles a minute and not knowing where to cut in. I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t create equal space, but it took my own therapist bringing it to my attention for me to even realize that I wasn’t giving my partner the space he needed to engage in our conversations equally. If you find yourself in the same situation, then I recommend you take a moment and remember WAIT. Not only will it help slow down the conversation so you can be better heard, but it will also allow your partner room to participate in the dialogue. For those of you who shut down, you can switch the words in WAIT to Why Aren’t I Talking? Just as saying too much can be triggering, saying nothing can be triggering because it leaves our partner feeling isolated and alone in the relationship.
One acronym with a big impact. The next time you find yourself in conversation, I hope you find it helpful to have that running through your mind.