Patience and the Big Picture
Conscious Communication: bringing communication up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above all, intentional.
Here's hoping everyone had a fantastic holiday and the new year is glowing with potential and opportunity for you. Showing some TLC to a fundamental virtue will make this your best year ever!
I’ve addressed patience as recently as October’s Slowing Down to Speed Up, and throughout “Kind Ambition,” because it’s a major issue for people; it keeps showing up. You may have noticed while holiday shopping that “holiday cheer” didn’t include much patience. People rushing about without thinking about the future or the Big Picture had a profound impact on me personally in December, forcing patience to be a major theme for my coming year, and inspiring this month’s column.
There is an almost “crazed” and frantic rush in our lives that has little connection to reality. It becomes blatant on the road, but this same impatience shows up subtly in other important parts of our lives. Staying with traffic’s exaggerated view for illustration, in the seconds between waiting for oncoming traffic to pass, and getting a right-of-way green arrow, why would anyone choose to bolt in front of oncoming cars? When the rain makes the freeway itself almost invisible, why would people choose to race each other, as if they’re at the Indy 500? Is it a choice? What are we doing? Where’s the fire? We don’t have a real answer. All we can do is blurt the vague “I have no time!” that’s being fed into our brains from every direction. It just isn’t true.
Choice is about thinking, which is different than reacting to a cultural cattle prod. Critical thinking tells you that a few seconds here or there on the road is meaningless, unless you’re an emergency services vehicle saving someone’s life. There are no trophies, no cash prizes, and no reward for beating somebody through a light. There is really no upside, save the absolutely invented illusion that we’re somehow winning something. The three seconds made racing to the stop sign are ridiculous. There’s no prize money, and you cannot make up the fifteen minutes from leaving the house late (equal to 300 three-second units). The downside is astounding, but time-scarcity shuts off imagination. It must be shut off to not think of a puppy or a child potentially in the road.
Yes, impatience in cars makes a dramatic point, (got your attention?) yet the downsides of impatience riddle the rest of our lives as well. Impatience does damage to our communication, to our relationships, to the very quality of our lives. It has no upside. Nothing is improved by it.
Getting something accomplished in the moment, that will create more work to clean up or repair, is not speedy. There are more clichés and proverbs around this rushing complex than just about any other issue we face. “A stitch in time saves nine,” “Penny-wise and pound-foolish,” “measure twice and cut once,” and the list goes on.
The only way we can make rushing (as opposed to moving swiftly) make any sense is to ignore the Big Picture, and focus on a tiny piece right in front of us. We know (when we’re thinking) that trying to “make up” seconds here or there will not improve our lives, our careers, or our relationships. It can easily do harm, and that makes it what Vegas residents call a "sucker bet."
Happy Solutions, Boundless Benefits
Going the other direction; the way of patience, offers us countless positive outcomes. Obviously, safety (physical, emotional, communicative) for all is enhanced on a quantum level. There is also the very real biochemical difference in the way we feel, when we are pleasant, patient, and kind, versus the way we feel when we are brusque, impatient, and surly. One of the chapters in “Kind Ambition” dealing with how we treat one another, has an exercise related back to the road:
"Let someone go first at a four-way stop sign, let them get in or out of a parking spot on a busy street, and give them acknowledgement as well: a smile, a nod, or both. Notice how good you feel at the end of the day. Notice that your productivity did not suffer one iota." I’d bet it increased.
When we communicate with each other, we rarely allow the other person to finish their sentences. Our impatience drives us to push the conversation faster, to rush the person speaking, to interrupt, and to assume what they were going to say anyway, so why wait for them to finish? There is just as much damage being done emotionally, as if we were speeding up to a stop sign, and running over someone’s feelings. Once again, there is no upside. By being more patient with one another, and being conscious and economical with our communication, we can get more done well in less time, and wasn’t that the point of rushing in the first place?
In the midst of our New Year’s Resolutions, we’re bombarded with messages connecting success to being mean, rushing, and grabbing for ourselves. You may have noticed it is not making us feel better or improving the world around us. Being more patient, compassionate, and looking at the Big Picture will absolutely make us feel better, and will improve the world around us. It’s an easy choice, when you think about it.
Try shorter chunks of communication
with more frequent check-ins
Very often people deliver lengthy soliloquies, especially when they are used to others not listening to them. Once they have the floor, they don’t want to give it up, for fear they’ll never get it back. Meanwhile the other person is trying to keep track of the salient points, so they can go back to address them, if they can remember, and try to keep some linear direction to the theme being discussed.
The anxiety this creates bursts forth in interruptions, as they feel they’ll never be able to hold all that information together. The interruptions are the self-fulfilling prophecy that the first person uses to justify the pattern, and the cycle is set.
If each person keeps the information chunk “bite sized,” the other person can check in to make sure each piece is understood before moving on. The shorter volleys actually transmit more information in less time, with less tangential confusion or anxiety.
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Ever want to create
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Kind Ambition is about you having the tools to slide over to the driver’s seat of your own life. Circumstances will always be changing, seemingly thwarting our plans, but we don’t have to be thrown around by them. You can be in charge of your choices and actions more than you might imagine - yet.
Kind Ambition is written for you, as a practical guide you can use right now. It is a collection of insights and actions designed to help you move forward and get more out of your life at home and at work. The chapters hold to a formula of first giving you a new way to look at things, then offering you tangible Action Steps to try them out, and finally some things to notice when you do.
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