Arguments: Strike When the Iron is Cold
We have all heard the expression ‘strike while the iron is hot’ and this can leave us thinking that the best way to handle relationship issues is right here and now while they are still front of mind. But is this the way to get the best outcome for ourselves and for the other person; or should we strike when the iron is cold?
Do we want the other to bend to us?
This expression originally comes from blacksmithing and it makes a lot of sense to hit iron when it's hot – it's easier to bend. But are we actually trying to get the other person to bend? Or are we seeking another sort of response altogether – them listening to us, or taking us seriously perhaps.
If this is what we want, then it might be better to take a different approach.
When we ‘strike when the iron is hot' the implication is that we talk to somebody when we are feeling quite charged with strong emotion, perhaps anger or sadness. With the power of this emotion behind us we feel more likely to be heard and our concerns are more likely to be taken seriously.
Sometimes, we want the other person to see how desperate we are.
When you want to persuade, be calm. Strike when the iron is cold
But if we want to be persuasive in a rational way, then it might be best for us to wait until we've calmed ourselves down. This gives us the opportunity to get clear about the facts, the approach we want to take in conveying those facts and the outcome we want to get. After all, this sort of approach is going to be more effective with some people and in some circumstances.
When some people see how upset we are or how desperate we are, all they want to do is take advantage of us. Some people hate.
Separate the problem from your feelings about it
For this reason it can often be very useful to separate the problem from the way we feel about the problem. They can feel like the same things but they aren't.
If we can take the time to address and work through our feelings, to calm them respectfully in the way that best works for us, then this gives us the opportunity to address the problem on its own terms and perhaps get a better outcome. This is why we strike when the iron is cold.
Learning to self-regulate
This process of self-regulation – of managing how we feel in a respectful way – is one of the reasons that people seek psychotherapy. A psychotherapist will be able to help you discover better ways to manage how you feel at the times when feeling too much doesn't help.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Now, read about how we learn to share with others.
– Tim Hill
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