Four Steps To Implementing The "Do Not Disturb" Process

If you’re going to find out sooner than later, then sooner is better than later.

Too many relationships suffer from a lack of communication. When I speak in various organizations, I’m constantly hearing the managers and the employees talk about the lack of communication. And when I conduct personal growth workshops, the participants complain about the same thing happening at home.

Well it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s been so much good research the last few years that we know what works and doesn’t work in communication.

One of the techniques that works is putting some DND – DO NOT DISTURB — time into your important relationships. It will help you maintain or improve your relationships. And as you know, I wrote about the “purpose” of DND in last week’s tip.

A lot of you wrote to me and said it sounds good, but you wanted to know more. You wanted to know how to do it. Let me outline the “process” of DND.


1. Schedule and hold DND sessions on a regular basis.

Schedule your 20, 40, or 60 minute get togethers. Don’t leave it to chance. Don’t wait until you’re free from other obligations. It will never happen. You’ve got to put it on your calendar.

And nothing short of a real emergency should change that schedule. Skipping your check-in times sends the message that you don’t care that much.

Of course there are times a scheduled session has to be cancelled. Emergencies do happen. Then reschedule your DND time as soon as possible. That sends the message that DND time is a meaningful and necessary part of your relationship.

You’ve also got to meet with some degree of frequency. For people at work that might be once a month. For people at home it might be every week.

Do not save DND sessions until they are “needed.” If you wait until you’ve got some serious issues to discuss, if you wait until the stress and pressure are at the boiling point, you’ll be getting off on the wrong foot.

If you hold regular DND sessions, you can avoid the four scariest words known to man, “We need to talk!” And you can avoid the most frustrating answer to the question of “How’s everything?” — that answer being “fine.”

Hold DND sessions when things are going well. And hold DND sessions when things can be improved.

2. Create a sense of safety in your DND sessions.

In other words, each person needs to enter the discussion with a sense of ease instead of fear. Whether it’s a work relationship or a family relationship, both parties need to feel like they’re going in as friends and coming out as friends.

George Elliot described it this way. George wrote, “Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.”

To create the safety, meet in a “mutually-safe” environment. Avoid places that are the obvious turf of one party or the other.

Restrict your DND session to the two of you. The very fact that you will be talking about your thoughts and feelings, that you will be giving feedback to one another suggests some degree of privacy. It’s hard to feel safe when someone else is listening in.

And discuss any fears of threat, reprisal, or intimidation before you move into the discussion. Put your fears out on the table. Establish some guidelines about what will happen and not happen during your discussion — such as “no name calling.” Specify what will happen to the information after the discussion — such as “no sharing of the discussion with other team members” or “no telling your Mother.”

Remember, you’re creating an atmosphere where you can really talk. So you’ve got to be thermostats instead of barometers. The first one creates the environment whereas the second merely reports it.

3. Go for understanding.

That’s the primary reason you even have DND sessions — not to clear the air, solve problems, or confront the other person. You’re there to understand each other.

Unfortunately, misunderstanding is rampant in most relationships. After David Hyre’s parents died, for example, he transferred thousands of their 35mm slides to video, using freezer bags to organize the slides. Each bag was labeled, used, and eventually given to his wife to reuse once his project was finished.

Some weeks later, however, their daughter was horrified when she came home to visit. She noticed a bag of turkey meat was defrosting on the counter–labeled “Dave’s folks.” She couldn’t believe what her parents had done–but she obviously didn’t understand.

If you go for understanding, it will take patience. And patience is spelled T-I-M-E. There are no shortcuts to understanding.

And patience requires focus. As the DND acronym suggests, DND means DO NOT DISTURB. No interruptions are allowed. No phone calls are taken; no doors are answered, and no TV is watched. You just focus on each other.

And focus requires active listening. You’ve got to check out what you’re hearing once in a while. Say things such as, “If I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying…” And ask things like, “Do you mean…” You can’t get by just nodding your head, saying “uh-huh,” and taking turns in talking.

Then listen for the “but’s.” Years ago, when I would counsel someone, I often noticed the other person would talk on and on but never seem to get anywhere. Then suddenly, the other person would say “but.” That’s when my very best listening kicked in. That’s when I would take lots of notes because I knew that’s where the real important stuff was about to be said. Everything before that was just a warm-up.

4. Look for and comment on the good.

Mark Walsh said it very well. He said, “When you look for the good in others, you discover the best in yourself.”

So start each DND session with a positive comment. Share a word of genuine praise, sincere appreciation, or humble thanks.

And end each session on a positive note. You might mention something you learned or a good feeling you have.

Those are a few of the guidelines for an effective DND time. I know you’re busy. Who isn’t these days? You’ve got a hundred things to do at work and a hundred things to do at home. Just don’t forget the reason you’re here on earth. You’re here for the people, not the things. And DND and Brave Questions is the way you get there.

Action:  Are DND sessions a part of your life? If so, evaluate your DND sessions in light of the four guidelines given above.

If they’re not a part of your life, discuss the concept and guidelines with someone this week. Schedule a session. Then take a few moments to discuss how well it went and what you could do better next time. And schedule your next session.