I am not a patient person, but as I get older, I have learned the value of patient communication.
Early in my career, I wanted to identify every issue and jump on it immediately. If I had a conflict with a coworker, I would corner the coworker and want to hash it out right then and there. If there was a misunderstanding, I wanted to not only correct it right away, but I wanted to leave every interaction with everyone feeling good.
I often didn’t get the result I wanted.
Slowly, I learned to give some interactions some time. Sometimes people need a little time to process input, get over a flood of emotions, or to collect some additional information. Giving that time often creates much more positive outcomes and maintains better relationships.
Here are some times when you may want to be patient and give the other party a little more time:
1. The Other Person Seems Lost or Not Excited - Have you ever pitched an idea to someone that you were excited about only to be met by a lack of enthusiasm? It can be a frustrating moment. Instead of leaning in and pitching even harder, back off. Let the idea marinate a bit. Maybe the other person will get more interested as they think about it, or it will give you time to circle back and see what is causing the hesitation. Sometimes, you might even find out that (gasp), your idea isn’t as good as you thought it was.
2. Emotions Get High - We don’t think well when we are overly emotional, especially when we are angry. If you find yourself getting mad in a meeting or see the other person getting upset, call a timeout to let cooler heads prevail. Just express that you want to resolve the issue, but that you need a little time to cool off. Don’t forget to follow up as the next conversation will be important.
3. Need More Information - I’ve been in too many meetings where people are debating about something that could easily be researched. If it is beneficial to get more information, give the team time to create that information.
4. Bad Timing - Have you ever approached an issue only to immediately discover that you caught the other person at a bad time? I can remember approaching my boss with a new idea early in my career only to quickly find out that he was having a horrible day. I asked him anyway and got a quick rejection. If the timing is bad, wait until it is better.
If you want to be effective and influential, learn to use time to your advantage. You don’t have to be a naturally patient person to make patience work for you!