“Patience can’t be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it.” – Eknath Easwaran
We often become impatient with others when they won’t do the things that we want them to do. Or, they do things in a way that we wouldn’t do them. We have the expectation that others should conform to the way that we want things to be. And when this doesn’t happen, we get impatient with the people around us.
Let’s be honest, most of what we think should happen, doesn’t. And that involves the way that other people live their lives. Practicing patience with others really involves two things: compassion and acceptance. These two are difficult enough to master on their own, so putting them together in order to be more patient is not an easy thing, but when we improve these skills life becomes more pleasant and our relationships improve.
Don’t Use My Shampoo
When I was in college I had a roommate that I was also good friends with. We had fun living together and we were respectful of each other’s living preferences. It was a good arrangement.
However, there was one thing that she did that drove me crazy. She had a tendency to use my stuff. She would use some of my shampoo in the shower and some of my mouthwash at the sink. She would drink a glass of my orange juice, and then maybe grab a few of my CDs to listen to in her bedroom.
She wasn’t hiding from me that she used my stuff, but she also didn’t ask me for it. Even if she had I wouldn’t have liked it.
I was a little more territorial about my things. She wasn’t trying to be rude or disrespectful, or even sneaky. In fact, she was quite open with her own stuff and would have gladly shared anything. It was just a style that I wasn’t used to.
As my impatience with this practice grew, it seemed like it would happen more and more, until one day I decided that instead of getting all irritated about this, I could simply use her stuff too. This way it was more like an even exchange, and I had access to twice as many things.
This was not something that I was used to doing, but in the end, being more open about this made me much more patient, and, I think, actually taught me to be a more open person and a better giver.
When I changed how I thought about the situation I wasn’t irritated anymore and it taught me something valuable.
Acceptance + Compassion = Patience With Others
Patience with another person means that you don’t let your emotions run away with you when they do something that you don’t like. It also means understanding that they can live their life anyway that they want, and you don’t have any control over it.
Here are some ways you can practice patience with the people in your life:
See Yourself in Other People – We all do things that are probably irritating to someone else, but most of the time we don’t mean to be irritating. It’s just that everyone has their own quirks and eccentricities and these things can rub others the wrong way.
When you realize you also do things that drive other people crazy, your compassion increases for the person who is driving you crazy, because you see yourself in them.
Flip the Situation Around – What if someone else thought that you should conform yourself to what they want (in fact, someone probably does)? How would that make you feel? Probably not very good, so don’t do it to someone else. 😉
Walk Away For A While – Don’t try to address what is irritating you in the moment. Walk away for a bit, think about it and then address it with the other person if necessary. Also, you may want to think to yourself “how am I participating in this situation?” and do something about that first.
You Don’t Control Anyone Else – Which is why getting all worked up about something they do is usually pretty worthless. If you really need to address something with someone, do that, but don’t dwell all over it.
Not Everything is a Personal Slight – Most likely, whatever this person is doing, is not meant to offend you in any way. In fact, it probably has nothing to do with you. So don’t take it too personally. Give people the benefit of the doubt first. 🙂
The Practice of Patience
Patience is most certainly a practice, so if you don’t feel very patient right now, know that you are not alone and that the more you practice the better you can be.
In particular, patience with other people is a difficult practice because we really have to get good at having compassion for others and being accepting at the same time. It’s ok if you are not very good at this right now. You can be.
By changing the way that you think about other people you can change the way that you feel about the things that they do.
What tips do you have for being more patient with others? Share your ideas in the comments!