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Impatience May Be Destroying Your Relationship - Here Are 5 Ways to Fix That

Impatience May Be Destroying Your Relationship - Here Are 5 Ways to Fix That

From the boardroom to the bedroom, patience can set you apart.

Patience is a virtue, as the old saying goes, but what does that really mean?

We live in a culture where patience isn’t often rewarded: everything is framed as a time shortage, from the Space Race of the 50s, 60’s, and 70s to the next can’t-miss-it blowout sale.

At the same time, behind the wider and often distracting stage of pop culture, perennial wisdom tells a different story—and there’s plenty of research to back it up. When it comes to healthy relationships, patience is vital.

Imagine parenting, dating, or having a successful career without it!

Behind the wider and often distracting stage of pop culture, perennial wisdom tells us that patience may be the key to deeper understanding and intimacy—and there’s plenty of research to back it up.

From the ancients to contemporary psychology and even yoda, learn how patience can benefit everything from your professional connections to your romantic endeavors. 

How Patience Benefits Relationships

young couple hugging wearing white
(Photo by Candice Picard on Unsplash)

While there are plenty of solo benefits to practicing patience, as we’ll discuss below, who would we be without our relationships? In a sense, you could say we are defined by how and with whom we relate. If you think about where impatience may rear its head most often, it’s likely in your intimate connections. 

The people closest to you may be the best at pushing your buttons and grating your nerves. In some cases, they may reflect your unsavory characteristics back to you with unflinching honesty.  

In the workplace, patience can prevent you from reacting too quickly to an irritating colleague or getting frustrated with your team when a project gets stalled. 

Relating without patience can lead to arguments, finger-pointing, and even blowups. On the other hand, you can use the friction of your relationships as an opportunity to cultivate patience and reflection. 

This can lead to prosocial traits like:

  • increased empathy and helping behaviors
  • responding rather than reacting
  • a focus on process rather than product
  • improved communication and listening skills
  • increased self-reflection and self-responsibility

All of these qualities are major benefits when it comes to having healthy, satisfying relationships—in the workplace, in the home, and even with yourself.

Patience Leads to Increased Empathy

two people holding hands
(Photo by Tanny Do on Unsplash)

A famous 1973 study conducted at Princeton known as the Good Samaritan experiment focused on how rushing might discourage people from helping each other out.

The study divided seminary students, presumed to be a particularly empathetic sampling of people, into two groups. They were dubbed the “hurried” group and the “unhurried group, respectively. 

Each group was told they had to deliver a sermon at a certain time and place. However, the hurried group was told they were running late.

As the students approached the building where they were expected to deliver their sermon, they had to pass by an actor who was pretending to be sick and in distress. 

The study found that 63 percent of the students in the unhurried group stopped to help the man, while only 10 percent of the hurried group did so. 

Increasing helping behaviors

These results show very clearly that being in a hurry—in other words, lacking patience—leads to a decrease in what the study called “helping behaviors.”

In contemporary psychological terms, we might call this “empathy.” Why does it matter for your relationships?

In short, feeling hurried, rushed, or impatient makes you focused on one thing: getting to your destination, whether that’s a physical place or getting your opinion heard. 

When you’re focused on “getting there,” it’s difficult to be present and engaged in the moment. 

Patience and receptivity

As a result, you’re far less likely to have an open and receptive attitude toward another person. 

Whether they’re telling you about difficult news, an alternative point of view, or simply a funny anecdote they wanted to share, impatience makes you hyper-focused on your goal of “arriving,” putting on the blinders to the feelings and needs of others. 

A 2007 study confirms this, noting that patience can lead to positive qualities like:

  • cooperation
  • empathy
  • equitable relating
  • forgiveness

Patience Leads to Responding, Not Reacting

two young women hanging out
(Photo by Jarritos Mexican Soda on Unsplash)

In step with leading to an increase in empathy, patience can help you pause and digest before you have a knee-jerk reaction.

In other words, patience can help you avoid putting your foot in your mouth or saying something you don’t mean. It can also make you a better partner or teammate. 

Patience and cooperation

According to a 2012 study, patience involves “the propensity to wait calmly in the face of frustration or adversity.” 

The study also noted that patience “buffers against emotions in stressful situations, allows the person to cope more adaptively with frustrations, and facilitates positive interpersonal interactions.”

An older 2008 study noted that patience is correlated with cooperation, in other words, being a team player. 

Patience & the need to be right

When you and a loved one, friend, or colleague have a difference of opinion, patience can help you detach from the drama of the situation and focus on responding skillfully. 

It can also help you focus on finding solutions rather than “winning” or being right. 

Focus on Process, Not Product

hand in a state of creation
(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

Ask any artist and they’ll likely tell you: Creativity is about process, not just product. 

When you have the patience to surrender to the process of whatever you’re doing, it means you’re not focused on the outcome.

Finding flow through patience

This kind of focus and attention to the present is sometimes called a flow state. Coined and popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it’s correlated with peak performance, absorption in an activity, and even enhanced levels of joy.

This skill comes in handy in everything from nursing a crying baby to completing a construction project to painting the Mona Lisa. 

Patience in the bedroom

Not to mention, this kind of commitment to the moment rather than the goal can go a long way toward making you a better lover. How’s that for improving your relationships?

Improved Communication & Listening Skills

mom and daughter browse the internet on a laptop

Focusing on the process can also be a major benefit for conflict resolution. 

Instead of rushing to find solutions, patience can help you be a better listener. It can also help you take the time to cool off before forging ahead to “fix” a situation. 

This involves listening to both the perspective of the other person as well as your inner emotional state.

Delaying the problem-solving portion of a conflict in favor of staying with emotions as they arise can lead to a number of helpful outcomes, including:

  • helping you and the other person to feel seen and heard
  • allowing space for emotions to exist with suppressing or “fixing” them
  • identifying clear boundaries between powerful emotions and objective reasoning

Some helpful skills to facilitate this include using “I” statements, such as “I feel frustrated when you jump to conclusions rather than try to understand where I’m coming from.” 

It can also be helpful to take a step back and, in cooperation with the other person, establish a shared intention around the desired outcome of the conversation. 

Improved Self-Reflection & Self-Responsibility

young woman looking in mirror
(Photo by Elisa Photography on Unsplash)

By far one of the most far-reaching benefits of patience for relationships and life in general is that it improves self-reflection skills

The ability to look within at your own motives, insecurities, and desires can help you avoid the pitfalls of self-sabotage. It also takes plenty of patience and the unwillingness to be uncomfortable to do it. 

When you reflect and get honest with yourself about your hangups, your habits, and your compulsions, you’re starting on the road to freedom from them. 

Also known as introspection, this kind of radically honest self-awareness can do wonders in relationships. 

Admitting when you’re wrong

For instance, self-reflection can help you take responsibility when you’re wrong. Instead of constantly defending your actions or words without the ability to step back and realize you might have been out of line, reflection can help you see the bigger picture. Maybe that strong reaction to your girlfriend’s flirting or your colleagues’ criticism had more to do with your own past hang ups or personal insecurities than it had to do with the actual situation. 

Recognizing the mental distortions that may characterize your actions and feelings can lead to greater freedom from them. No matter what the relationship, there is nothing more sexy, mature, or professional than admitting when you’re wrong and taking responsibility for it.

Avoiding manipulation

Ever been in a relationship with an energy vampire or a gaslighter? Patience and self-reflection can help with that too. Taking the time to reflect on the situation, your motives, and the language of the other person can help you detect when you should actually take responsibility for a conflict and when you can protect your boundaries from false accusations.

If your reflections lead you to conclude you’ve acted in good faith, you can let it go. And if the other person seems unwilling to, it may be time to let them go

Building Better Relationships With Patience

From your manager to your toddler, patience is an invaluable tool that can help you relate better to any person or situation. Next time you notice you're tapping your foot at the cashier or zoning out while your loved one shares, see if you can bring your attention back to cultivating patience. You'll likely see the fruits of your efforts in richer, more fulfilling, more enjoyable relationships.


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