Thinking Out Loud

Time and Timing

I’m very aware of time. What time it is, how long something will take, the number of days before an event. I look at my appointment book several times a day, making, changing, and remembering when I have appointments and mapping out the time-flow. I’m also the kind of person who gets ready and shows up very early for appointments and events. I began doing this as a child. Keeping accurate time playing a musical instrument, however, has always been challenging, and although I’ve done a lot of organized singing as an adult, my timing skills with music remain weak.

My time estimation skills are also weak. I frequently err in determining how long an activity will take. Left on my own, I will calculate three activities taking a total of two hours, when in reality they take five or six hours. Likewise, I can overestimate: planning several hours for something that takes barely one. So, I’ve learned to ask others for feedback as part of my planning efforts.

My interpersonal timing skills, however, are strong. I innately sense what to say when, which fosters clearer communication and greater understanding.  I’m not talking about the art of making good conversation. I mean the way of listening and feeling the rhythm of the conversation, knowing when to ask a question and when to be silent, naturally modulating my voice and creating an emotionally safe environment. The timing involved in each of these “activities” comes naturally, although having over 30,000 hours of office counseling “practice” helps.

Timing and time, related but different—a strength, a weakness. Our human capacities have different dimensions. In one way they can work smoothly, efficiently and effectively.  In another way they can be erratic, out of synch, and cause problems. As I continue to observe and study the details of how we interact with ourselves and others, I am amazed at the nuances of our capacities and how paradoxical they can appear.

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