Monday, August 30, 2010

NT/AS Clue: The "Trigger Phrase"

NT/AS Clue:  Agree on a "Trigger Phrase" that is code for stopping all further communication on a topic until BOTH of you are calm.

NT shares her heart.
AS either says the wrong thing or nothing at all.
NT gets angry.
AS gets defensive.

However, if the NT/AS couple have an agreed on "trigger phrase" that means all communication on that topic must immediately cease, there can be peace.

New Scenario:
NT is sad, angry, etc.
AS defensively says "What's wrong? or What did I do now?"
NT feels emotion welling up, but says the trigger phrase instead.
AS recognizes trigger phrase and stops talking (no questioning or following out of the room allowed).

Or it may look like this:
NT is ranting and raving at the aspie.
AS says the trigger phrase.
NT stops talking.

Granted, this is severe and merely a temporary solution, because it does not bring final resolution.  But until the new patterns of NT/AS communication can be successfully and rationally employed, the trigger phrase can be used to bring peace ("Cease Fire").  This time allows the NT the ability to "cool down" and be rational and allows the aspie time to let down some defenses that have become his automatic protective measures.

Examples of trigger phrases:  "Let's wait." "Let's talk later."  "Let's take a break."  "Let's stop."  Whatever you both agree on can work. 

Note: The aspie must understand that the phrase is not to be taken literally.  Otherwise he may refuse to use it, because he may not ever want to "talk later" about the topic!  :)  He must know that it is simply code for "let's stop and both calm down."  Sometimes, once emotions are calm, one may realize the issue wasn't that important anyway and it may never need to come up again.  If it does need to be discussed later, true progress can be made only while calm and rational anyway.  This is a win-win situation. 

Most Importantly:
It is absolutely vital that each partner agrees to take responsibility to both use and adhere to the agreed upon trigger phrase if they ever want to see improvement in their relationship.


  1. Great post, we tend to use "Timeout... we'll talk about it later" as our phrase.

    Certainly don't use "talk to the hand" :-)

    It's not just used for when the aspie puts their foot in it conversationally. My wife also uses it to let me know if I'm stressing out. For example, sometimes I'll start to be too concerned with patterns, past behaviour or the wrong parts of conversations. Sometimes I need to be told when to let go.

  2. Thanks, Gavin! So glad for some feedback letting me know I'm on the right track.