4 In Thoughts & Observations

Never Underestimate the Power of the Three-Second Delay

Not too long ago, I blogged about a run-in I’d had with a jerk from the day job and our fight or flight instincts. The particular jerk who inspired the post could earn a profile pic next to argumentative in the dictionary. Thanks to him, I’ve coined a new phrase that I’m thinking of entering in the Urban Diction: Pricktard.

Yeah, he’s a real likeable fellow.

But I do have him to thank for something.

I realized after another delightful confrontation discussion with him yesterday that I’m getting much better at exercising the three-second delay.

I know you know what I’m talking about. That definitive moment when your mouth opens, a retort lined up for launch on your tongue–and you stop. You close your mouth, breathe, and count to three.  (Or fifty depending on the severity of the situation.)

Lots of stuff can happen in those three seconds. You can redirect your anger and find a diplomatic way to take the high ground. You can continue to say absolutely nothing and let the jerk wallow in his own nastiness. Or you can decide a verbal spike between the eyes is just what’s needed and let ‘er rip. But at least by pausing, you know you made an active choice instead of a knee-jerk reaction.

The delay works on good stuff too–also demonstrated to me last night.

I’m in the process of rearranging/redecorating my writer’s cave, and had picked out the perfect little desk to go with a hutch I already have. The store had plenty in stock. All I had to do was pick out a new, cozy couch my muse would be happy with, give the info to the sales chick, pay, schedule the delivery for this Friday, and BOOM. I’d be done.

Then the sales chick called me to say, “We sold all four desks in stock since Sunday and they’re not buying anymore. All they have left is a contemporary version in a darker stain.”

“But I don’t want a contemporary version in a darker stain,” I said.

Dead silence.

In the space of a nano-second, all of the following went through my mind:


This ruins everything.

I don’t have time to mess with this anymore, I’ve got too much to do.

Maybe I should just go with the darker stain.

What the hell, do it and move on.

Yes, I get that my thought processes were a bit rushed and, thankfully, the three-second delay kicked in. In that tiny moment of white noise, I decided to do nothing for thirty minutes and let things percolate.

Guess what? The sales chicky called back and told me I could have the floor model, complete with zero dings for ten percent off.

SWEET! I love a good deal. Thank you three-second delay.

What about you? Do you have a story where a tiny, mental hesitation saved your bacon? Or a time when you wish you’d hit the pause button?

Fingers crossed I don’t need my three-second delay today. I’ve had enough of pricktard to last the rest of the month.


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  • Reply
    CJ Burright
    February 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Ha! LOVE pricktard! I don’t have trouble with the 3-second delay because I’m one of those people who think of the perfect response about an hour later. Oh, wait…my 3-second delay is the death-glare. Better than any words.

    • Reply
      February 20, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Not exactly my most PC word, but it does bring to mind a strong image. (And accurate for the situation.)

  • Reply
    Gretchen Wing
    February 20, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    TOTALLY stealing “pricktard” next chance I get! I loved this post. Would re-blog it except that it, um, doesn’t quite go with my “brand,” damn it.

    • Reply
      February 20, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      I’m just glad it resonated, Gretchen. Here’s hoping you have no pricktards in your immediate future. 🙂

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