Thursday, February 24, 2011

Three Cheers For Patience

Patience,it seems,is a highly valuable personal character trait that is in on the endangered species list.In our lives of text messages and rapid-fire e-mails,slowing down,breathing,and pausing before we respond is incredibly helpful in our closest relationships.It can be an asset in other places in your life,too.

Where do we need to exercise patience?

In our close relationships, it often strikes me how often we rush others along while they are speaking. We can interrupt. We can finish other peoples' thoughts (often incorrectly).These bad listening habits contribute to misunderstandings, amd make others feel hurried and disrespected. There is nothing more loving in relationships than to listen from the heart and with every intention to give the other person your full attention.This attending to what your intimate other is saying makes the other person feel more at ease, understood, and important. Spread the attention around to others who matter at work as well.Taking the time to really listen in an unhurried manner gets you a whole different experience than what happens when we interrupt or interrogate. Try the difference with a teenager you love and notice how things open up and change.Teens can smell lectures coming, but are happier if you listen when they feel like sharing. Just don't play devil's advocate,start lecturing or grilling, or you lose a beautiful moment of connection.

With strangers,try a little patience and kindness and see what occurs. Being difficult and impatient with strangers while you are driving,waiting in line at a store,or otherwise going through rote daily public interactions deprives the experience an element of humanity and warmth. Try this with the grocery checker or bagger when they ask you how your day is going:smile and ask them about their day.Let someone merge in front of you.Being a loving,authentic person requires a level of genuineness and patience which says to perfect strangers that you recognize that YOU are not the center of the universe.You also demonstrate with random acts of patience that you are not"busier than thou", and see yourself as part of the community. If you are a parent, keep in mind that you are role-modeling patience or impatience as a lifestyle,eveywhere you go.

Give yourself a little gift of patience,too. Try not to be critical and judgemental of yourself. We are all imperfect.It takes time, as I always remind my patients in therapy, to change behaviors and create new and healthier patterns.When we know better,we generally do better. Try to reflect on lessons learned from any interpersonal sequence you regret,and focus on what you can do differently next time. Apologize freely. Good things generally take time, and aren't instant. Witness the difference between homemade mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving,compared to the microwaveable stuff. Relationships that cultivate depth, real intimacy, flexibility,and resilency also take patience and perseverence. This defies current thinking that things should come effortlessly and stay great automatically in a relationship, or in pursuit of a life goal.The truth is that most things worth having aren't fast or easy.

Be a partner with me in taking patience off the endangered species list:one person, one family,and one workplace at a time.I want Team Patience to beat Team I'm In A Hurry Here. Some conscious attention to living patiently helps us hang on to our humanity as technology speeds up our lives.

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