I never had a talent for this when I was younger.
As a teenager, I’d wait for my mom to come home from work; within the first couple of minutes, I’d ask something of her like, “Can I go to my friend’s house tomorrow after school?” Or, “Will you take me to the mall after dinner?” Of course (not being very observant then), I didn’t realize she was de-stressing from a hard day, so her answers would normally be, “Not now.” Or worse, “No.”
My sister, who is 9-years older, would tell me how bad my timing was—that I should wait until her mood was better. She must have been right because shortly after my mom shut me down, my sister would be granted her own request! Yet something in me just didn’t want to heed her advice, know how to, or both.
One could say my timing—for learning lessons about timing—had to come in (you got it), my own time!
In that situation, and I’m sure many more growing up, timing taught me that I had to follow my own feelings. I knew my sister had the best intentions for me, but I wasn’t ready to follow them. So I continued acting the same way until, one ordinary day, I was just tired of the response I was getting. Her advice suddenly just made sense; I decided to pivot and heed her advice. The difference? This time, “I” was ready! The time was right. And, I started to relate better with my mom.
Do you know of others who won’t listen? Who ignores your pure intentions to help them?
Perhaps, like that teenager me, they’re not ready. Know it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them; they are learning! Send them love and guidance anyway but allow them to make their own mistakes. Unless it’s an intervention needed to save a life, a lesson is never truly learned until it’s understood from experience.
Take, for example, a time in your own life: Do you remember when you failed to heed well-intended advice? A time when you wish you had followed, or at least now understand, the loving help provided? Now ask yourself with the hindsight of 20/20… “Would I have learned the valuable lessons had I not followed my inner timing of learning my lessons?”
To know and learn from a lesson, to keep it from repeating, we need to feel for ourselves (vs listen to the mind chatter) when it’s time to shift. Maybe this is an age-old adage, but I was reminded by reminiscing on my story, that “some things we just have to learn for ourselves” is an integral lesson for us all.
Timing has yet again been a teacher in my life. Similar to the one above but this time from the other spectrum—as the teacher.
These past few months I have eagerly wanted to help people as COVID-19 surfaced. As a certified practitioner, I freely offered to share techniques or advise people on how to self-heal, to invite calmness, and to process the trauma that was going on in their life. I was taken aback when some people declined this heart-felt offering, preferring to sit in pain and fear instead.
Remembering my teenage story above, I acknowledged I was now on the other side, the teacher’s side. I have to honor that people have to be ready—in their timing—to learn, heal, and grow.
But timing had an even deeper lesson for me in this situation, reminding me to keep “reading the room.” This ability, also called Emotional Intelligence (EI), can be a sort of superpower!
It’s the power to recognize the emotional state of others and the ability to modify your behavior to elevate relationships. Even better, it’s a way to be able to influence and ignite faster growth in others, while still allowing them to self-learn their lessons. You don’t have to abandon them, feeling helpless, as you watch friends and loved ones flail.
It’s said that half of teaching (or being a helpful parent, friend, partner) is about imparting the facts and lessons we have learned to help others. The other half, the master half, knows when you’re overdoing it and can be flexible in the moment to adjust strategy, communication, and presentation of your wisdom based on how they are feeling.
For example, are they confused? Defensive? Afraid? These are picked up from external cues so you know how to adapt your message for them to feel safer, more comfortable, to process the information you have to teach. (Who does your mind go to if I ask you to think of your best teachers? Did they have these qualities?)
Coming full circle, I understand now how my sister’s offering of help and guidance during my teenage years was to save me frustration and disappointment. How hard it must have been for her to see me suffer, to choose the hard road when she offered a solution! Just as it was difficult for me to experience apathy from those I offered to help.
I’ll admit, using the techniques of EI has helped me tremendously, but I know and expect that some will still not want (or be ready for) help even with that approach. What a difficult thing to watch people you know go through what we see as unnecessary pain, but timing is a master teacher, imparting lessons only when ready to be received.
So please be kind and patient with yourself and others. Sometimes we have to defer from the lead and play the supporting actor, waiting with a loving heart to reconnect in…