1. lack of patience; intolerance of or irritability with anything that impedes or delays
2. restless desire for change and excitement
-Collins English Dictionary,Complete and Unabridged
Years ago, a business partner and I had a conversation about impatience. We were noticing the blessings of impatience as well as its corrosive, damaging aspects. As we talked, and as I’ve reflected since then, I came to the conclusion that there is a critical distinction between two kinds of impatience. It’s a distinction that’s been helpful to me in understanding impatience and in considering whether it has any place in the practice of being an effective leader. Two kinds of impatience, and I get to choose which (if either) I bring to my daily work and relationships.
By now, perhaps you are already becoming a little impatient yourself as you read this, muttering “Out with it already, Ann! What are you talking about with these two kinds of impatience? Spill it, will you!” Ah yes, and that’s one of the kinds of impatience I am talking about. Thank you for your timely demonstration.
And some of you, perhaps, are saying “Ah! I can’t wait to learn. I know it’s gonna be something good and valuable. What will it be, I wonder? Come on, Ann. Tell us!” And that, I think, is the other kind of impatience.
You can sense the difference, I’m sure, between the two. And maybe, sensing that, you can see why I’ve found it so useful to have a distinction. These two impatient sisters are close kin but, oh so different in their voices, their movements, the impression they leave on those around them!
I’ve named the sisters now, and I am striving to get to know each of them more intimately.
One, I call Lovely Impatience. Lovely Impatience is extraordinarily impatient; there is no denying that! Yet, she often has a sense of wonder embedded in her unwillingness to wait even ONE MORE SECOND. She is ready to embrace, eager to see, and it’s dreadfully hard for her to wait. So Lovely Impatience often pushes, pursues, and provokes—all in hopes of hurrying things up. And oddly enough, though she is provoking…people seem to feel loved and treasured when Lovely Impatience makes her appearance. She somehow makes others feel only that she is longing to share more fully in what we bring, only that she believes we have a great deal to offer. Lovely Impatience urges us to bring all we have, preferably now.
Lovely’s sister is not nearly so pleasant to be around. I’ve named her Ugly Impatience, and she is as different as can be from Lovely. When Ugly Impatience shows up, people most definitely do NOT feel the love. Instead, others feel berated, blamed, and beaten down by her disgust with their slowness. There is a negative vibe that Ugly brings. Though Ugly too is impatient to see what others have to share, there is an ugly edge, and hence her name. In Ugly’s presence, others begin to feel that it won’t be any good after all, whatever they have to offer, that they’ve already fallen short in meeting Ugly’s expectations, that they will never be enough. Ugly’s Impatience makes those around her feel ugly too, sometimes so small and ugly that they are never courageous enough to share the nugget they might otherwise have offered.
Two sisters. Two facets of each of us when that mood of impatience comes knocking. One, an eager invitation to enter; the other a growling “Get in here already!” that frightens us away.
You get to choose which one you bring.
(An earlier version of this blog was shared on the Bounce website. Check out the Star Coaches podcast featuring Ann and her new book, VUCA Tools for a VUCA World.)