Having Patience or Being Patient?Mar 23, 2022
Living in a world full of unrest, one thing creeps in as a fact of life: less and less people around can serve as appropriate models of patience. We are constantly under pressure, we are constantly against the clock, we developed industries to resist better time, we enforce conflicts more often to get something faster, and we started to cultivate in many areas of our life instant gratifications. And all these at the expense of people having stopped to learn patience.
Patience is a virtue, and there's a reason why: it's a tough skill to master. While patiently researching this article and the meaning of the word patience, I found here 68 (sixty eight) synonyms for patience.
Many of the coaching discussions start with my clients being in a quest for more clarity and understanding of some choices ahead. Usually, our exploration leaves the client with the strong insight that they would be better off if they can maintain their awareness alive. And it is not long to eventually connect being aware with a need for having patience.
Since this topic is so frequent, I thought it deserves writing a blog article on patience.
Managers I work with realise that:
- holding on to tight schedules,
- holding on to a certain image about themselves,
- scheduling and rescheduling to accommodate changing priorities,
- having their success and performance depending on the performance of other people,
- having high expectations about themselves and how their evolution in life should look like,
- dealing with uncertainty or pitch dark unknown,
- dealing with multiple issues of the people in their team,
- having to create a shared sense of wellbeing for their team while each individual of the team wants to be treated as a separate special individual
are all factors negatively impacting their ability to maintain their patience.
And the more they decide before fact what the outcome should or must be, and who they should or must be in the process of obtaining those results, the more the time factor, the other people and life circumstances are felt as nuisances or even hindrances.
As a result, the manager will push even harder for manipulating circumstances and people around to align them into compliance with their own expectations. While being pushed, people will understand their contribution is not appreciated or they start becoming defensive of their contribution, and soon will start redrawing the support they give their manager, waiting for more interventions from their manager. Once this loop starts, the manager will feel even more the need to push, creating even more pressure, that will turn also back towards self as a big prioritising and scheduling issue, big quality issues, surprises in execution and even more disengagement from their people.
While managers understand and recognise their lack of patience, they approach patience from the perspective of a resource one either has or should have had, in order to consume out of it. As if patience is an inborn quality and, somehow, either was not there right from the beginning at birth or it got somehow consumed without being noticed.
But is this true? Are we born already having patience or do we learn patience or lack of it?
Have you ever seen patient people losing their patience? I believe you already witnessed such people. Was it because in general they did not have patience or because in the moment they lost their patience and became impatient?
So, is it about having patience in general or about being patient in the moment?
Having patience in general not only brings the pressure of already having it (since when and how did it get there?), but also maintaining it every second. This sounds a really complicated if not an impossible task and creates even more demotivation.
According to Dr. Sarah Schnitker, patience is the propensity to wait calmly in the face of negative emotions (such as frustration, disappointment, regret, shame, guilt, anger, judgement) or any type of adversity or challenge.
It comes in three main varieties:
- interpersonal patience,
- life hardship patience, and
- daily hassles patience.
This is patience we offer or allow ourselves to manifest when dealing with other people and their demands, needs, and emotions.
A manager will always have to deal with a diversity of styles in respect of how each of their team members, collaborators or their own senior managers puts forward their requests and needs to make known their emotions.
I bet you already know people in your team or among your collaborators whose behaviours or habits annoy you to the point of driving you crazy.
Or you know people (at work or in your family) who are too slow or too hard to read; or too unreasonable, too stubborn or too demanding, or too vocal, or too impatient (ha!), or too silent, or even … too balanced, too detached, too aloof, etc.
But, think a bit: if you formulate “too … impatience, demanding, detached, etc”, whose frame of reference do you take as being the legitimate one?
And when you put that label, whose perspective (i.e. your expectations) you consider as being legitimate?
Exactly! Yours! And yours only!
Therefore, the following questions might help you clarify yourself:
- How do you know your expectations are correctly set or even legitimate?
- Are you sure others know your expectations?
- What is your preferred method of communicating your expectations?
- … or of negotiating these expectations?
- … or of setting healthy boundaries with others?
Losing your patience with others will bring no actual benefit for no one. Contrary, it will just make matters worse.
The remedy for lack of interpersonal patience is empathy.
In my work with managers, the topic of empathy is the most awkward topic for many of them.
A first misunderstanding I see is the perception of many managers that empathy means having pity. And no one likes to be pitied. Therefore, for fear of not pitying others, and sometimes not knowing how to handle their own emotional reactions, managers often impose a distance from the others and treat others’ requirements in a septic way, taking out whatever is human in the relationship and letting only dry data speak and drive their decisions and actions.
A second misunderstanding I see is a generalised perception of managers that empathy is only offered to others. Hardly anyone thinks of having empathy for self. In fact, many managers feel that allowing themselves to prove empathy for self is equivalent to pitying themselves or to being caught wining or of being vulnerable or emotional, all three considered unacceptable and weak behaviours in the workplace.
Nevertheless, patience and understanding toward others is essential when you are onboarding new staff, when you're delegating tasks, when you impose new rules in the team, when you develop people (including yourself), when you require people to do something for the first time in their life, when you request people to show accountability or courage, or to show firmness or assertiveness, when you establish standards for what is acceptable or not, or even when you set rules for who is allowed to belong and who or how is rejected.
Interpersonal patience is active. And is influenced by your mindset and by the way you model for others being an empath: both to yourself and to others. It requires you not only to listen to the words or the dry data, but to see beyond the words, to feel the energy of that person, and understand what that person longs for.
Is it independence and autonomy, is it validation, or perhaps is it safety, connection, friendship or even love?
- Life Hardship Patience
You often hear about perseverance. The term perseverance is coined to mean hardship patience. As in: having the patience to overcome a serious setback in life, waiting for some result to mature (go through some exams, paying back a loan, waiting for kids or even employees to show some “maturity” signs, remaining positive and confident in a process taking longer than expected, having a positive outlook when going through the treatment for a serious illness).
It applies even to your own professional life: this can mean persevering for obtaining that promotion, or for getting that certification, or for working to a longer-term goal such as writing a book, for transitioning into a new job or growing a hobby or a hustle business. Or even letting go of your previous expectations that your start-up is not where you initially envisaged to be in 3 years. Or even working for your own fitness recovery, including becoming more resilient.
In my work with managers and having also my own experience, I realise people are falling in the following traps regarding their own professional becoming:
- There is the expectation that if success was relatively at their easy reach up to that point, the next step will be similarly easy.
- A continuously ascending professional or life journey is a guarantee of a future ascending trend. Therefore, any descending or even horizontal trend is considered to be a set-back.
- One can burn stages in climbing the learning curve of a new domain, once being already a master at least in one field.
- It is normal for things to be good to or for you.
Sometimes it is only one, sometimes all four of them are present, colouring the life perspective of the respective managers and the emotional range they live through.
Anyone’s professional and life journey is sprinkled with circumstances we may call obstacles or challenges. But remember: circumstances are neutral. To read more about how circumstances create emotions I wrote a separate blog article: https://bit.ly/3KWkJzJ
Whatever the obstacle or challenge you need to overcome, it will likely require determination and focus to achieve. Nobody promised anyone the road will be smooth. There cannot be a certainty about it. You will need to keep both your emotions and your reactions under control throughout the journey. These emotions can range from eagerness to get it done, to restlessness pushing you to do anything to feel safer or valuable, to anger at the frustrations you encounter along the way, to shame for not having been able to meet a promise you made and anger on those who did not support you enough, etc – and all these emotions will just sap your energy, creating the grounds for you to become demotivated.
- Daily Hassles Patience
In your daily activity there will always be situations where you will not be able to maintain your control.
For example, you are in a hurry towards an important meeting to realise that you do not know whether you closed your door when you left home. Or the traffic is so busy and you are just stuck unable to move. Or that your appointment was cancelled last minute leaving you with no possibility to activate the initial plan. Or the weather promised to be lovely this morning, only to realise at lunch time you cannot go out because of the rain outside and you do not have an umbrella. Or you need to make some bookings, you set aside for half an hour, only 3 hours ahead to realise the booking sites are not responding, your internet connection is too slow or the computer suddenly started a software update, the time flew and you are on square one.
Definitely all these happenings are trivial, many of them well beyond your control. To respond with a negative outlook to them would mean to spend energy in hoping that the planned scenario will still happen, irrespective of the reality proving you differently. And you would just spend energy in still hoping what should have happened will happen, when in fact the moment is spent and there is nothing else to be constructively done except focusing your energy in managing the situation at hand.
In addition, you will also need to live through those dull, obscure, less glamorous, but absolutely unavoidable daily tasks that don't necessarily contribute to your personal goals but allow for your health or wellbeing. Cleaning the house, doing your bed, buying groceries, going to gym or having your own health related or nutrition practice, cultivating good habits (reading, learning, networking, etc), etc. All of them require and call for self-discipline. Sof.discipline which once set and integrated as a way of being, will actually set you free.
Challenges will always be there. Whether in relationship with other people, in relation to our long term goals or in relations to daily hassles. It is on us to choose our response to them. Whenever we approach them from an impatient angle, we will decide or internalise that situation as a challenge, our response will be that of dealing with a stressful situation: figh, flight, freeze or cling - all elevating the level of cortisol and entertaining further this loop.
Impatience can transform leaders into agitated collaborators or coordinators, into control freaks, into unempathetic tyrants, in one word into poor decision makers. Their inability to be or remain patient in certain moments will just harm their reputation, corrode relationships, escalate already difficult situations, with the direct consequence of maintaining a loop of negativity in the manager’s mind and within all their interactions.
Boy, this was a long post. I know.
How is your patience at this point?
Which out of the three forms of patience you feel is drained out? Notice and learn about yourself.
If you lost your patience, what triggered this to happen?
If you maintained it to the end of the article, what made it possible?
What is the answer informing YOU about who you are when you are patient?
How about who you are when you are impatient?
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