- Linear response theory relates the response of a system to the power-spectrum of its fluctuations. However, the response to external driving in realistic models exhibits a pronounced non-linear blurring of the spectral line-shape. Considering a driven Bose- Hubbard trimer model we figure out what is the hidden time scale that controls this smearing effect. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Fermi-golden-rule picture fails miserably in predicting the non-linear width of the transitions. Instead, if the system has a classical limit, the determination of the hidden time scale requires taking into account the underlying classical phase-space dynamics.