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When Someone Says “Now’s Not a Good Time”

June 4, 2021
2 min read

Have you ever approached your partner and asked them something only to have them fire back, “Now’s not a good time”…?

Hearing that typically doesn’t feel great, right? It’s a pretty good indication that the person is experiencing some irritation. Although that irritation may not be specifically directed at you, what your partner is doing is putting up a wall between you that probably makes you feel even more upset.

In some ways, it’s okay for the person to let you know the timing isn’t the greatest for them. They do have a right to put up a boundary, especially if they’re already stressed or overwhelmed with other things. 

The key is, though, that they need to reassure you they’ll return to the conversation in the near future. And this would be evident with a few small changes to the way they get their feelings across to you. 

So what would be a better option than “Now’s not a good time”—for the sake of communication and the feelings of the partner? 

What Are They Really Saying?

When you bring your partner your emotions and their response is “Now isn’t a good time,” they’re communicating to you that they don’t want to deal with you—and probably hoping you’ll just back off. They may not even know how to deal with you. 

This quick dismissal also says they’re not interested in what you’re bringing to them in that moment. And if they don’t want to deal with you and your needs now, they most likely won’t want to deal with them later, either.

It’s essentially a way of shutting you down—stonewalling. And it’s not the greatest phrase to use with a partner…I would suggest avoiding it in relationships. 

But What if the Timing Really Isn’t Good? 

There may be times when you are on the other end of the situation—your partner approaches you and it feels like a bad time for one reason or another.

However, there are plenty of ways to communicate this that come across as less dismissive, less discourteous, and more collaborative. At these times, the delivery—the how—can make all the difference for your partnership.      

A much more diplomatic and relational way to get your point across would be to say, “I really want to hear what you have to say—but let me finish this work call first,” or whatever the case may be. Approaching your partner’s emotional upset with that kind of communication allows them to feel seen and recognized, and not dismissed or rejected.

Going back to the scenario where you’re on the receiving end, wouldn’t that kind of collaborative communication make a big difference for you?  

Here’s a short video about this situation:

See It from the Other Person’s Viewpoint

If your partner shows they are still interested in your feelings and emotions, even if the conversation needs to be delayed, you’ll undoubtedly feel more emotionally seen and heard than if you were shut down or shut out. Compassion and understanding can go a long way toward building a strong relationship foundation.

So, the next time you might want to tell your partner, “Now’s not a good time,” remember how you would feel hearing that phrase. Remind yourself to add to the statement and encourage future collaborative communication. Let your partner know you’re not ignoring them, and chances are good they’ll do the same for you in the future. 

Are you interested in learning three keys to helping you work through conflict with good communication? Check out our free training on the subject here.
Photo Credit: Sammy Williams Unsplash

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