I’ll be the first to say that patience is not my virtue. I move quickly through the world, and I often expect everyone else to be just as proactive and efficient—whether that means responding to emails within 24 hours, or, like, putting your credit card in the card reader while the cashier is scanning your groceries. (Come on, people! It goes so much faster that way!)
Which means that it could be easy for me to get frustrated when I’m stuck in a long, slow-moving line, whether I’m trying to buy a thing of milk or waiting to get through airport security.
But I rarely do.
First, let’s be honest, because of podcasts. (I’m not sure how I got through the interminability of the world before podcasts became a thing—though I do remember that at one point I was a person who carried a book everywhere I went.)
And second because, at some point, I internalised the fact that lines take time. Job searches take time. Anything that involves waiting for someone else to get back to you takes time, and you can rarely control exactly how long it will take.
Which means I was interested to learn about new research published in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour that suggests the secret to being patient is to think concretely about the experience (that is, realistically) and avoid abstract or negative speculation. As Fast Company explains:
The trick is to think as concretely as possible, which makes you perceive the wait time as shorter. Avoid abstract thinking, which typically gives negative meaning to your wait, and spurs negative emotions. “When someone is late for a call, if you think abstractly, you may think that they don’t respect your time, or don’t think the call is important, and therefore you might become mad,” says Dorit Efrat-Treister, an organisational psychologist at Ben-Gurion University. “But if you think they may have just misplaced your number or got another call first, you won’t become so annoyed.”
In other words: you’re not stuck in line because the person in front of you isn’t paying attention to what’s going on around them (“why didn’t you think to get your driver’s licence out of your wallet before you got to the TSA agent?”), you’re stuck in line because that is the nature of lines.
And you’re waiting to hear back on that job interview because that is the nature of job searching—not to mention that, while finding a job might be your #1 priority, filling an open position is only one of many priorities a potential employer may be trying to balance.
Even waiting on a child who is taking forever to put on their shoes can be reframed concretely; maybe they’re still figuring out how to manipulate Velcro straps or shoelaces, or maybe they are also trying to balance multiple competing priorities (putting on shoes vs. playing with toys, for example) and they haven’t quite learned that in some situations shoes come first.
So try to go through life with as concrete a perspective as possible. Traffic will happen; bosses will be late to meetings; the person in front of you in the grocery line won’t have their rewards card and will have to recite their phone number to the cashier. These are not anomalies that are slowing you down; they are the realities of life.
And if it’s possible to pass the time by listening to a podcast, well, that’s always an option.