Patience – Is it a lost virtue?

Last week, I was on a packed flight back to Bangalore. Once boarding was complete, due to air traffic the plane was in the tarmac for about 45 minutes. People were getting upset, consistently asking the crew why the aircraft was not taking off and in some conversations impolite. The crew and the captain did what they could – kept us informed, served a lot of water and respond to every query politely.

But, people were just impatient. Not realizing in that situation, there is not much one can do and getting angry or impatient just adds to nothing.

The flight finally took off and people settled down. However, as we were about to land in Bangalore, the weather got bad and the plane had to hover around for about 30 minutes. This time though, the expressions and the environment of the aircraft changed. The very people who had shown a lot of impatience and frustration a few hours ago, were the ones now hoping the same crew would get them to land safely.

And once the plane landed, everyone was pushing and scrambling to leave the aircraft quickly. Funnily, there was nowhere to go until the doors opened.

This is just one small example. It seems like the overall patience levels are going down. While the new generation is perceived to need instant gratification, I think, increasingly it is becoming generation agnostic.

From standing in a queue, to waiting for a waiter to attend to you in a very busy restaurant, to the wi-fi not coming on in a hotel, to waiting for your turn to come in a clinic or at a parent teacher meeting, etc. etc. it seems like ‘ants in the pants’ all the time…

The professional world is no different. How many times have we had colleagues who will rush to you as soon as they fire an email or follow-up like there is no tomorrow or want to know at every minute what is happening? Everything just seems to be ‘now’.

This being the age of technology enabled work where speed, pressure to produce immediate results and just in time is the norm, some might argue – patience as a virtue, yes, but at what cost?

What we at times tend to ignore is that patience drives some key behaviours that can enable some basic culture in an organization:

  • Achievement: In driving better relationships, the ability to negotiate better and achieve long term goals
  • Decision making: Better response under pressure situations by not making reactive decisions (only to regret later)
  • Listening: It is said you should listen 80% of time and speak 20% of the time. The patience to be open to listen to another perspective, rather than edginess to speak all the time

As Warren Buffet said, “No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”

Somewhere, we seem to be forgetting that and it makes me wonder – Patience – is it a lost virtue?