Five Second Rule

This isn’t about the safety of food dropped on the floor and snatching it up prior to five seconds; it’s about a time delay before opening our mouth to speak. 

This is about my beautiful, rambunctious, and verbally impulsive friend Terrie. If anyone needed the five-second rule it was Terrie.

Ever opinionated and supremely intelligent beyond her youthful appearance, Terrie is one of those people who will tell you the truth right from the starting line. She’s the one who’ll point out how the new yellow shirt you’re wearing makes you look sick. On the upside, she always points out if you have food stuck between your teeth or dirt on your face. Terrie earned her reputation as a straight shooter.

I could count on her to have an opinion on anything. I mean everything. Some would find that refreshing. I wondered how her new husband would take it. I invited her to coffee a few weeks after the honeymoon.

“He has absolutely no decorating sense.”  Terrie complained. They had just had their first huge argument in front of their apartment Dumpster, where she’d unceremoniously chucked his bottle cap collection and random posters. She had no room in her life or apartment for his tacky stuff. He was hurt and a bit miffed.

I listened to a litany of disparaging martial discord. Did sharing your life mean putting up with his sloppiness? And seriously, Cheetos for breakfast? “Don’t even get me started on what TV shows he likes,” she whined.  I listened to a long list.

As we ordered another round of caffeine, I wondered if Terrie knew how she sounded. I’m sure she didn’t intend to sound so mean. She loved her big burly guy, even if he did forget to put the cap on the toothpaste, left the toilet seat up, and threw his wet towel on the floor.

So, I suggested the five-second rule. Next time she felt like offering her opinion, or was ready to snap out her rapid-fire judgment, I told her to count to five. In those seconds of silence she could choose to change her words. Rather than ranting about dirty socks in the corner, she could say something encouraging.

Over the months, the Five Second Rule morphed into the Sandwich Rule—nestling opinionated words between two loving comments. And she kept adding more loving comments to her sandwiched remarks. Terrie and her big burly guy recently celebrated twenty years together.

Oh, and his treasured bottle cap collection? After that blowout fight, Terrie climbed inside the Dumpster and retrieved every last one. And she’s glad she did.

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