There is no quick and easy way to learn patience. Although the theory behind it can be illustrated and its benefits proven, people are not likely to adopt the concept until they are ready—until it is time.

 

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

Arnold H Glasgow

 

When I was a kid, I was always on my way to somewhere. I couldn’t tell you why that way, or the importance of getting there in an instant. However, I knew that I was missing something by not being on my way. It was important to me to find out all those things that others knew, and to see all of the new and exciting things in the world before they faded away.

 

I have to admit, I am still a little bit like the kid I once was. Now, I am bigger and taller, slower and more gray, but I still have an urge to rush to the front of the line. This propensity, however, seldom works in my favor. Early adopters of technology pay higher prices and suffer through more retrofits and patches than those coming behind.

 

In negotiations, the first person to lose their cool or to state a price will lose, because in doing so; they have furnished their opponent with a leverage point. In a salary negotiation, you should never state what you would take as your minimum salary, because that is the salary that you are most likely to receive.

 

In negotiations with vendors, many of you will have had at least one experience with customer service that is more laughable than affable. Where in every iteration of your request for service, you are baited calling your practices into question. Such cases require that you document their responses, perform a gap analysis, demonstrate why a complete fix is necessary, and stipulate why they are legally bound to complete the work. This process is tedious, but it generally results in a superior system.

 

My experiences with dealing with poor customer service have taught me many things about the people involved both on my side and on the other side. Those times where we were patient and persistent with well-conceived processes for change were the times that we won. The times when we lost our cool reacting to our opponents taunts were the times that we lost. For every feature missing from our system or project, I can trace back to an impulsive and impetuous response. In being reactive, we lost our position of authority and in most cases our legitimacy.

 

People who are reactive are dismissed as irrational. They are not seen as agents for change and are seldom judged as being capable of making a difference. In fact, they are usually seen as damaged in some way — ostracized from their own group and ignored by their opponents.

 

Patience is one of the most valuable assets that a person can have. This is as true in life as it is in work. Those who lack patience often pay a penance, and those that have it reap the benefits. I am still working on my patience, but admittedly, the process is taking forever. I just hope that the time I’ve got left is greater than or equal to the time required to complete my journey.

 

“It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”

Elizabeth Taylor

 

Got to go.

 

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David Harwell is the Assistant Director for Industry Member Programs at the American Chemical Society. This article was originally published in the ACS Careers Blog 09/29/08.

 

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