Whenever a colleague would ask a convoluted question at the end of a meeting that kept us all waiting longer, of course I practiced the facial expression of intrigue, the mechanical little nodding to insinuate awareness and attention. My thoughts and nerves, however, sharply contrasted my appearance and mannerisms.
“Wow,” I would think, “some of us actually look forward to going home,” or “dude, did you not hear? The meeting is ending. The boss is out of breath. Someone’s stomach just growled super loudly,” or “in case you haven’t noticed there’s a pregnant woman in the back falling asleep who probably still has to make dinner for her other kids and husband.”
Still, with all this impatient thinking, I pretended to listen, dying to sigh or flap my arms and huff, “Why me?!”
I recall getting internally annoyed at having to repeat myself to others simply because he/she was not listening at first. I was good at mimicking patience, but not actually being patient inside.
So, what’s the problem? I didn’t think internal impatience was a performance inhibitor as long as I kept it to myself. I see now that I was wrong.
Patience cannot be acted. It must be practiced. Since I have started implementing patience, I feel noticeably less exhausted and less defeated. By practicing patience, I spend more energy on thoughts that matter. Without my mental, “hurry ups,” there is more space in my brain.
When I use patience, I listen and empathize more. I react more effectively, and others appreciate this patience as a respite from the impatience.
I did not realize how much impatience resembles anxiety. My mental impatience, like anxiety, was repetitive and exhausting. Like anxiety, impatience can be managed. You can replace impatience with patience if you practice.
Tips for Practicing Patience
1. Breathe. Consciously remembering to breathe can slow down your thinking. While this person is asking you the same question for the third time, you are taking a moment to calm down rather than getting annoyed.
2. Focus. Like a kid staring at flash cards, you can attempt to prioritize the content being communicated rather than waiting for the communication to end.
3. Every time you feel yourself growing impatient and getting annoyed at others, ask yourself why. Examine your own thinking, rather than the flaws and absurdity in others. Why are you in such a hurry? Why are you so tired? Why are you being so critical?
4. Redesign your own communication strategies if someone is having trouble understanding. I used to think, “Well, the other person yesterday understood it, so what’s wrong with this lady?” Instead of growing frustrated, remind yourself that people are different. Take the opportunity to employ a new strategy.
5. Evaluate the reactions of your superiors when a meeting runs over time. How are they handling their levels of patience? What do you admire…or don’t?
6. Write down a list of goals regarding your patience. Examine what makes you impatient. Brainstorm possible ways you can react, rather than feel impatient. How could you produce patience instead of impatience.
7. Recollect times that others have practiced their patience on you. By remembering how one’s patience positively affected you, you can motivate yourself to be patient with others.
8. Recollect and analyze times that others were impatient with you. How did it make you feel? Do you want others to feel this way?
9. Mentally reward yourself for practicing patience. It’s not easy, and you should be proud.
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