Google’s dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” And there was my photograph right beside the definition!  Just kidding.  I have been told that I’m an extremely patient person. and mostly I think that’s true.  Except when I’m driving, but I’ll save my rant about inconsiderate drivers for another time.

I was recently asked by a colleague to name a few reasons why it’s important to have patience in the workplace.  Here are my thoughts:

  • Patience conveys an atmosphere of cooperation.
  • Patience as a leader, teacher, mentor, or boss, enables others to figure things out on their own.
  • Patience creates a calmness which sets a positive tone.
  • Patience in choosing your words helps you to thoughtfully and appropriately deliver your message.

Why do these things matter?  Well, for one, consider the alternative.  Have you ever been shouted at by a co-worker or boss?  Do you whisper your response, or do you raise your voice in return?  I once worked for an attorney (Leonard the Lunatic) who regularly threw things — letter openers, coffee mugs, three-ring binders.  Did that behavior promote productivity and cooperation?  As I recall, it was more like ridicule and disdain.

So let’s agree right now that patience is a virtue.  And let’s also agree that none of us is always quite that virtuous.  Even though I think I’m generally patient, I know I can improve.  I want to share a handful of approaches that have worked for me.

Identifying an underlying issue makes sense, no matter how trite that issue might seem in retrospect.  If the zipper broke on the dress I was planning on wearing, or I hit every red light on the way to the office, I might be inclined to carry that negativity into my work day.  But once I figure out the underlying issue, I can move forward.

Being aware of personality traits in others that trigger my own impatience is a constant challenge for me.  A recurring one is when my clients interrupt each other instead of listening to what the other has to say.   Rather than chastising them for their bad manners, I have learned to explore alternatives.  A helpful technique is to ask others for their input:  “It seems to me that we all need to listen better to each other.  What do you think we can do to improve?”

If I’m about to say something in anger that I know I’ll regret, I excuse myself from the conversation, usually saying  “I need to gather my thoughts.  Please give me a few minutes.”

Admittedly, I’m a work in progress.  We all are.  So in the final analysis, I try to ask myself, “what will it take to get past this?” If I have enough patience to ask myself that question, I know I’m headed in the right direction.

How do you regain your patience?  Please share your tips in the comments.