6 Tips on Developing Patience

Patience is the ability to reframe one’s reality into something that is more acceptable.  So, if there is suddenly a delay on the highway on the way to the airport, you can reframe it in a way that doesn’t cause you anger and frustration.  Perhaps there is another flight if you miss this one or maybe I get to spend one more day in paradise or in my cozy home. Jane Bolton wrote in article for Psychology Today that “impatience was a happiness killer.” That got my attention.  My habitual slide into impatience was killing my happiness.  Perhaps it was time to address my foot tapping anxiety, my constant clock watching or interrupting others to “get to the point” and embrace the space for just this moment.  

Here are 6 tips on developing patience:

  1. Determine what type of impatience you are suffering from.  Sarah Schnitker breaks it down into three types: Interpersonal patience (our ability to be patient with others like children and co-workers), patience in life hardships (when we deal with a significant setback like a hurricane or loss of a spouse or job), and patience for daily hassles (the irritation of daily hassles like wifi outages and traffic issues).  I tend to have an easier time with being patient interpersonally but can completely lose my cool when my Wi-Fi slows down or other daily hassles.  I can struggle with wanting to push a rope like when my returning to my house after Hurricane Matthew was dependent on one lowly cabinet that was back ordered.  Without the cabinet, can’t have a counter top, therefore, can’t have a sink, therefore can’t put in the flooring.  Ugh. It’s good to know that I’m strong in some areas so maybe I can build in other areas.
  2. Be an active listener. It’s pretty hard to fake being a good listener.  I knew an executive that was pretty good at faking listening but regardless of what story I was telling, they would respond with a completely unrelated statement.  Although they were great at maintaining eye contact and leaning in, their lack of understanding with a reframe of what I said, asking a relevant question or giving additional information made it clear they weren’t listening. Failing to be an active listener creates disconnection. I try not to check out but look for ways to create understanding by reframing and asking clarifying questions.
  3. Pay attention when the irritation starts.  I just completed a long drive from Tybee Island Georgia to Durham NC.  Every time I would see brake lights a quarter mile ahead headed north bound on 95, I could feel the stress take over.  I personally have been stuck in a 4 hour delay on 95 before and just the whisper that it could happen again can cause me angst. There was an oversize load that several semis needed to pass.  I remember thinking, “Well, let this just pass.”  I actually got in the slow lane to let all my impatient road buddies pass.  We were going 50 miles an hour after all, it’s not like I was walking home.  But knowing that I was starting to get frustrated help center me.
  4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As written on the Goodwill Blog, “Waiting around for something you really want or need doesn’t’t feel good. For many of us, waiting can be downright uncomfortable. And this discomfort often results in feeling impatient. How do you fix this? You can increase your tolerance for uncomfortable waiting periods by making yourself wait more often. That might sound counterintuitive, but, if you think about it, you can really become a more patient person.”  I remember reading this many years ago and the example was to get in the longest checkout line at the grocery store or (God forbid) DMV.  Another great test for me is to follow my beloved dog Baci on her smell wanderings.  I typically want to hurry up and get inside; letting her just wander with me tagging along can be a test in developing patience.
  5. Stop Multitasking. As much as I like to think that I am robustly juggling several things flawlessly, I am, in fact, just skimming from one task to another to another and spreading myself too thin.  As written by Goodwill, “Multitasking can also force us to move too quickly from one task to another. We might then expect others to move quickly with us. Forcing others around us to rush is a form of interpersonal impatience, and it can put a bad taste in others’ mouths about you.” The opposite of this is uni-tasking.  Focus on what is in front of you right now and put away everything else as a distraction. 
  6. Be here now.  When I was in that “almost stuck on 95 north” moment. I remember pulling into the right lane and thinking, these other folks like these truckers have some place they have to be.  I only have to be here alive, safe and with plenty of gas.  I’ll let everyone else be on their way and, eventually, I’ll be able to pass when it’s the right time for me. I always love Rick Hanson’s question, “Are you alright right now?’ Yes, yes I am. And now. And now.  And now. When I am Ok with the current moment, I don’t need to get impatient for the next moment.

I always admired my late father for what I saw as his infinite patience. A 35-year veteran of teaching 8th grade history and a doting grandfather to 4 grandchildren.  He was, as I reflect back, always just in the moment.  I imagine channeling him when I have felt impatience rear its ugly head.  “What would Daddy do? “How do you find patience?