As a teacher, I have always been fascinated with learning about how we learn. We all have different learning styles and learning rates. There is a concept called "wait time" that measures how long we wait for an answer once we have asked a question. I think we can improve the communication in our marriage by applying this idea when we interact with our partner and our children.
The concept of "wait time" was developed by Mary Budd Rowe, a Professor of Science Education at the University of Florida in 1974. Wait time measures the amount of time a teacher gives a student to respond after asking a question or the amount of time given before the teacher repeats the question. The theory is that the longer a teacher waits for an answer, the better the quality of the response will be. Her research showed that generally teachers only give a student less than one second to answer before repeating or moving on to another student. I experimented when I was teaching, and I found that I was guilty of not giving students adequate time to formulate a response, and I started practicing wait time. I was pleased to see that the quality of the students' responses improved when I was willing to wait just a few seconds more.
When I think of the numerous interactions I have with Dennis every day, I realize how important wait time can be in marriage. How much time do I give him to respond? Do I assume that he should give me an excellent response in record time just because we have been married for 33 years?
Here are 3 steps to try to improve your wait time in communication:
1. Look first to be sure your partner is in the room and you have his/her attention before speaking, so your partner has a chance to focus attention on you. It's not fair to talk to your partner's back and then feel frustrated when there is no response.
2. Practice wait time. Ask a question that requires more thought than a simple "yes" or "no" answer and wait at least three seconds for your spouse to reply. (Try saying "I love you" silently three times to help you keep from talking.) Keep an encouraging, thoughtful look on your face and avoid rolling your eyes or sighing while waiting for an answer. See what kind of response you get. (Try it with your children, too.)
3. If you are thinking about your answer, say "I'm thinking about it." or "Give me a minute." so your partner knows you heard the question, and you need time to consider your answer. If you find you are rushing your partner to respond, ask him/her to let you know they heard you and are thinking, so you know that your communication link is established. Then go back to #2 and wait.
Don't wait to try it---start now!