Patience is a crucial skill to possess. It benefits our well-being and improves interpersonal interactions in both the workplace and our personal lives. But patience doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
The good news? Like any skill, patience can be learned. And we’re here to help. Read on to learn how to combat instant gratification, develop interpersonal patience, and practice patience in your day-to-day life.
Patience versus instant gratification
Your phone pings and you look at a new message. You need to learn something new, so you look it up. You want a new pair of shoes, so you buy one online. We live in a culture of immediacy, so we tend to expect our needs to be fulfilled in an instant. When this doesn’t happen, we grow impatient and frustrated.
In other words, we crave instant gratification. Sometimes, getting an immediate positive result is beneficial — maybe you really need that new pair of shoes. But constantly prioritizing instant gratification starts a cycle wherein we favor immediate benefits over the wait for long-term gains.
Impatience can be detrimental to our mental health and well-being. The frustration that wells up when we immediately react to situations, like disagreements with our co-workers, translates into stress. Left unchecked, that stress could have harmful long-term effects. Reminding ourselves to be patient lowers stress levels in our day-to-day lives and ultimately leads to greater success.
Think about it: If we put money into a stock and pull it out immediately, we won’t gain much. But if we’re patient, our money grows over time. After a few decades, we could be in a position where we make more in a month (on interest alone) than we would’ve earned in a year. Patience is like investing, but with our time.
Aim for delayed gratification. This is when we delay satisfying our current desires in exchange for a more rewarding outcome in the future.
Focus on the big picture rather than narrowing in on an immediate but smaller reward. Maybe you’re looking to create a new business website. You might save time if you give the first person you find a contract. But instead of signing on with the first developer you meet just to get it over with, be patient and interview potential developers until you find the best one to execute your vision. The investment of your patience will ultimately lead to a better and (hopefully) error-free website.
We should practice patience for ourselves, but also with those around us. Interpersonal patience is the ability to be patient when interacting with others. It’s an important social skill that professionals like coaches should have, especially when helping clients.
Being patient with someone who is being difficult isn’t easy, but it’s a crucial skill to have in a professional setting. Learning to be a more patient person affects the coach-client relationship for the better. It allows us to maintain strong connections with our clients and problem-solve for positive outcomes, even when we disagree.
Exercising patience creates a safer, more comfortable space for our clients and increases trust in our relationships. And you’re leading by example — when your clients see you navigating tough circumstances with patience, they’re more likely to do the same.
4 ways to practice your patience skills
Practice makes perfect. Whether you’re struggling with patience at home, with friends, or at work, use these strategies to become better:
- Be an active listener. Developing patience with people starts with clear and empathetic communication. One of the quickest ways to sour a conversation is by ignoring or interrupting the other person. On the flip side, someone with great conversation skills is likely to listen and respond to their conversation partner thoughtfully after taking time to reflect on what they have to say.
When we indicate we’re paying close attention in a conversation, the person we’re talking to feels valued and respected — and they’re more likely to return the favor when it’s our turn to speak.
- Be empathetic. Sometimes, people upset us. Acting on instinct and responding with whatever comes to mind is tempting, but this goes against everything we know about how to develop patience.
Remember, we’ve all had different experiences and come from diverse backgrounds. We likely won’t agree on everything with everyone — and that’s OK. In fact, different points of view can be beneficial for gaining a well-rounded look at a situation.
An easy way to be empathetic is to give others the benefit of the doubt. We should assume that everyone else comes into an interaction with good intentions. It’s easier to be patient when we know the other person is trying their best.
- Work on emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence enables us to understand and manage our emotions in positive ways. It can help us relieve stress and deal positively with conflict.
The key to success in this area is self-awareness and learning not to act impulsively on negative emotions. When social interactions don’t go smoothly, it’s easy to point fingers and give into frustration. To practice patience in these settings, look to mindfulness. Start by taking deep breaths to calm down and ground yourself before responding.
- Slow down. When we’re stressed out, we don’t always make the best decisions. If we’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s necessary to recognize and acknowledge our emotional state. Once we’ve worked out how we’re feeling, we can move forward with a productive mindset — this might mean deferring important decisions and conversations to a more appropriate time.
When we’re unsure of what to do, slowing down can allow us an opportunity to take a step back, reflect, and return to the situation with a clear head. At the end of the day, a few extra minutes or hours is a worthy trade-off for putting your best foot forward and maintaining a good relationship with a family member or co-worker.
3 steps to access your patience
Now that we know how to practice becoming more patient, let’s look at what to do when we need to use our patience. Here are three tried-and-true steps for accessing our self-control when the challenges of our daily lives become overwhelming and the stress hormones take over:
- Recognize triggers. As we take the time to slow down and reflect on our feelings and behaviors, the things that trigger our impatience will become more apparent. From feeling upset at being interrupted to being irritated when waiting in a long line at the grocery store, we should identify a list of things that make us want to act impulsively.
This list may grow and change as we discover more about ourselves and become more attuned to our emotions — and that’s a great sign.
- Have a plan in place. Once we know what spurs our impatience, we can figure out how to respond to each situation in a productive and healthy way.
For example, if a big trigger of ours is being ignored in a conversation, we can make a plan to speak up and ask our conversation partner to pay attention to what we have to say. Then, we’re prepared to deal with it calmly the next time it comes up. With practice and experience, we’ll become better at dealing with triggers as we encounter them.
- Reframe the situation. Reframing is when we take a negative situation and look at it from a more positive point of view. Getting stuck in traffic can spark annoyance, but we can reframe this situation more positively by thinking of it as an opportunity to listen to a favorite podcast or album.
Using these approaches to deal with situations that feel urgent and stressful allows us the time and perspective to reconsider our knee-jerk reactions and take the best possible route forward.
Learning patience as a coach
Being patient with others and ourselves can improve our mental health, smooth our social interactions, and boost our communication skills. All these benefits can help us become better coaches. By slowing down, looking at the big picture, and having empathy, we’re creating a kinder and more productive environment for ourselves and our clients.
At Practice, we understand that cultivating a strong coach-client relationship takes time and patience. Try our all-in-one client relationship management system to take some of the administrative work off your plate so you can focus on being the best coach you can be.