At Your Service: Feb. 3, 2010

Patience is a virtue. Not only is it a virtue, it is one of the originals (like faith, hope and charity) that greases the skids of life and makes our passage easier. While we don’t hear as much about them as we did in the past, the extent to which we embrace the virtues determines our experience. The virtues serve as resources as we come to grips with the simple fact that, contrary to our wishes, the world does not revolve around us. Patience is the virtue that facilitates our relationship to time.
Time is an artificial construct. There are species for whom 24 hours is a lifetime. Within our species, it is measured differently from culture to culture even though most countries now use the same calendar to relate to one another. As individuals, our relationships to both time and patience change. When we are very young time crawls so slowly that we count the years in fractions; as we age, the speed with which it passes increases until we consider it to be flying by.
Technology has further altered our expectations of time. We send an e-mail and expect its recipient to get back to us immediately; we pay exorbitant fees to ensure that people receive hard copy overnight. Many believe they should not have to wait for anything they want and are upset when a delivery cannot be made cross-country within 24 hours.
At the early stages of a new business, we constantly remind ourselves that no one makes a profit in the first week. Being patient about that expectation, makes it possible for us to focus on the tasks that we hope will lead to profitability. Patience frees up our energy, taking the charge out of waiting.
Patience plays its largest business role in our relationships with customers. It is quite human to want things to move along at our pace; yet, customers insist upon moving at their own pace. They are virtually immune to the pressures that prey upon us. They review estimates, make decisions and engage in every other aspect of the business transaction according to their own schedule, wants and needs. Without patience, we would drive ourselves crazy playing the waiting game.
We also often need patience in the midst of service delivery when customers interrupt the flow of our work. Their questions and comments delay and sometimes stop our work; it would be easy to become annoyed. Patience enables us to step back and give our customer the attention they need to continue trusting in us. Trust is a critical element of patience – trust is generated by patience and patience fosters trust.
Practically speaking, when we engage patience, it short-circuits judgment. Questions heard through the filter of patience are simple requests for information. When we are patient, we give an angry customer time to express their frustration; this gives us the information we need to develop a solution that will lead to mutual satisfaction.
Being patient in a rapid paced world increases our personal power. Instead of expending our energy in anger or frustration, we are free to engage with the issues at hand. This freedom makes us more creative and productive – a good thing – by definition, a virtue.