Nephew: The other day I found myself in the Post Office behind a queue of ten people. If the staff had been moving any slower they would have been statues. It was excruciating. How do you deal with impatience?
Uncle: How did you deal with yours?
Nephew: I did what I figured you would do: I labelled it. I said to myself, ‘I’m impatient’.
Uncle: Well done! Often we don’t notice our impatience because we are too busy focusing on the problem. You’ll get a medal for that. Did you also remind yourself that it was you who was making yourself impatient, not the staff, and not the long wait?
Nephew: No. I didn’t think of that. Who would think of that?
Uncle: You can forget about the medal. But yes, when we become aware of our impatience, and recognise that we are creating it, we draw on our resources to deal with it.
Nephew: What resources?
Uncle: The resources you developed in all the years you have been living, but let atrophy.
Nephew: For example:
Uncle: You might ask yourself, ‘Why am I irritated? Which button is being pressed? How important will this be to me in a minute from now? A year from now?’
Nephew: Gosh. What a shame you weren’t standing next to me in that queue. You would have been handy. What heartbreak.
Uncle: I’m not sure sarcasm is the right approach to take with me.
Nephew: I’m pretty sure it is.
Uncle: Look, the best way to deal with impatience is to not become impatient in the first place. And a good way to do that is to become easygoing. One way to do that is to employ Edward de Bono’s shrug.
Nephew: The lateral thinking guy?
Uncle: Yes. When you suffer a minor inconvenience, shrug. When you’re insulted, shrug. If you’re in a long queue, shrug. Shrug when someone makes a mistake.
Nephew: A theme is emerging.
Uncle: Get good at shrugging, and who knows, when a meteor smashes your home to smithereens you might just be able to shrug and get on with your life. How empowering that would be? Imagine the resilience you would have!
Nephew: Imagine the splinters.
Uncle: De Bono’s shrug helps us see an incident in a healthy perspective: we get good at reducing a problem to a mere inconvenience. And, it reduces the intensity of what we are feeling. Our distress evaporates.
Nephew: So, if someone steals my car, I just shrug?
Uncle: Feel all the emotions that come to you, but at some point, when you are ready, shrug.
And, obviously, take steps to get back your car.
Nephew: So, when I was in the queue, waiting for the statues to move, I could have just shrugged and accepted the situation?
Uncle: You could also have asked yourself the questions mentioned a minute ago.
Nephew: Do you mind if I yawn?
Uncle: We can also use de Bono’s Shrug to avoid being judgmental. If you see someone acting weirdly, shrug. If they have luminous hair, shrug. If they’re wearing four cardigans on a hot day, shrug.
Uncle: Shrug. In short, the trick to being a patient person is to develop patience in the good times, when it is easy to be patient. So, when the troublesome times come along, it’s easy to deal with them.
Nephew: Let me guess: when I get good at not becoming impatient, I’ll become less anxious, more easygoing, and therefore, more resilient?
Nephew: You’re so predictable.