My husband and I have a rule we've used for several years to help us keep the peace and frame our important conversations. It's come up a few times recently, so I thought I'd share it.
Here's a scenario...
You turn your head and notice your partner has tracked mud in the house. AGAIN. OMG how many times do you have to say something? Who is the person who cleans it up?!? Not him! How can he be so inconsiderate! And it's not just this; it's all the stuff he leaves around in the morning like he is the only one who is working here. You feel invisible, unvalued, and disrespected.
What do you do?
Well you probably know what your first instinct says! Now seems like the PERFECT time to bring up not only the mud but everything that is REALLY the issue here. And if you're anything like me, you'll be really motivated to make your point RIGHT NOW.
This is where the 24 hour rule comes in. The 24 hour rule separates what is URGENT from what is IMPORTANT.
The rule is this: In the moment you can only bring up the immediate issue (ie. dealing with the mud on the floor this morning). You may not bring up any broader issues related to what just happened. For example repeated patterns, historical references, your feelings beyond this incident, or projections about the future. For all other conversations, you need to wait 24 hours.
The short version is that you can't use the immediate URGENT issue to be the bridge to a broader IMPORTANT conversation.
The logic of this is that for an important conversation about patterns, deeper feelings, and/or requests to change behaviors you want both people in as calm, connected, and non-triggered state as possible. If it is important, you want to approach it as a team. You want the best possible conditions for success (certainly not one person triggered, the other defensive, and probably both people frustrated and wanting to get out the door to work!)
Another side effect of separating URGENT from IMPORTANT is that some of the issues that seemed so important in the moment will turn out to not feel so important 24 hours later. Whadayaknow. ;)
And a final caveat we've added... If 24 hours pass and you forget to bring up the issue until the next time you're triggered in the moment, then you have to wait 24 hours again! (pro tip: make a list!!)