On Being Patient

I think it’s important to be patient with people.

Whenever we’re making decisions, we usually gather up as much information as we can, then we roll it around our heads, we turn it over, we ask more questions. Basically, we try to get everything to form a cohesive structure. Then we act. We make a decision then act. This whole process typically happens really quickly for small decisions, but for the big decisions—taking a job, moving to a new house, starting a business, beginning or ending relationships, changing your entire worldview—the process can take a long time.

My family recently moved from Pennsylvania to New York, from suburbia to the middle of nowhere. And it took my wife and I almost a year to make that decision. There were so many different factors we had to work through: cost of living, house size, being near family, circumstances, personal goals, how we want to raise our children—it was a big list. And throughout that year-long period, if you had asked me or my wife the question, “What do you think about moving?”, the answer would have been different on any given day.

But at some point, we decided: we’re moving. Then we had tell people, and not everybody “got it”. We had some close friends who were heartbroken, tears shed, because this life-changing decision that took us a year to work through was hitting them all at once. We did our best to explain all of the reasons in a concise, easy-to-understand way, but ultimately, they didn’t have that year of processing that we did. So in some ways, it was harder for them, especially for the people who our decision affected most, people that we were closer with or people who’s jobs got more difficult because we were leaving. We tried to be really gentle, and understanding, and patient with them because they didn’t have the time we did to process all of this.

I think that’s such an important quality to have with people.

Be patient with people who’ve made a decision you don’t agree with or understand. They’ve probably been thinking about it a long time, weighing all the options and trying to make the best decision they can given the circumstances. They may have missed something, but I’ve found that giving people the benefit of the doubt gives you a greater opportunity to help inform that decision than if you treat them like they made the decision hastily and with no thought.

Be patient with people who don’t like a decision you’ve made. They haven’t had the time that you’ve had to mull it over. They may not have fully considered all the factors you have. Or more importantly, maybe they have and they’ve got something important to add and you need to have the patience to hear it.

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