How to wait well

By Warren Heggarty

Fancy Chair in Eastwood Library.JPGABOVE: Carry the latest issue of Panorama with you everywhere you go and you will discover that even the most annoying waits will be highly productive. PHOTO OF THE READER’S CHAIR, EASTWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY CHILDREN’S SECTION BY WARREN HEGGARTY

No one likes to wait, but sometimes waiting is unavoidable. What can you do to get yourself through the waiting period without losing your cool?

Panorama heard a story about Mick who had busted his knee playing footy on Saturday waited in Emergency until Monday to have his knee treated . Fortunately Mick, being Mick didn’t mind dozing in a hospital for two and a half days. Many others would have lost their cool! 

Whether it is right or wrong, fair or unfair, being made to wait is common and unavoidable. This is why we need to learn how to wait well. If Mick had done his block and abused the staff for making him such a low priority, he might not have been seen at all. You’ve probably seen those signs in hospitals ‘Aggressive behaviour will not be tolerated in this health service.’ I sometimes get angry just reading that sign…

Reasons why is waiting so painful

1. Anxiety because of uncertainty. Have I passed my exam? Was I successful for the interview? Is my medical test positive? Will Sarah actually hear my voice message and ring me back?

2. Fear about a possible negative outcome. If I fail my exam I am ruined. This job was my best chance. If I have a serious illness I won’t be able to cope! Sarah won’t ring because she doesn’t like me!

3. Not recognising that every cloud has a silver lining. That exam proved that accountancy is not my calling. I didn’t like the interviewer and would prefer not to work for her! If I actually have a serious illness then I will be able to concentrate on treating it instead of just worrying. If Sarah doesn’t like me I guess Margaret does and she’s kind of cute!

What you can do 

A/Prof Kate Sweeny of the University of California-Riverside, has studied the psychology of waiting and has some tips for people who are waiting for an outcome which is uncertain. (Ross-Pomeroy, 2014)

Rule 1. Distract yourself from uncertainty. Read an enthralling book, watch a captivating movie, play a video game that transports you to another realm. Do things totally irrelevant to the situation.

Rule 2. Manage your expectations. There are two ways to do this: brace for the worst or hope for the best, and both have their merits, although the optimistic choice seems to work better for people in the long run.

Rule 3. Look for the silver lining in all outcomes. Expectation plays a huge role in life satisfaction, so generally, when people come to terms with their new predicament, they’re able to redefine their personal measures of happiness.

Rule 4. Keep perspective regarding the news. Consult with friends, family, and experts to ascertain the ramifications of potentially bad news. Evaluate how important the moment truly is in the grand scheme of things.

Rule 5. Plan ahead for the consequences of bad news. Take steps to make your life easier should the disastrous outcome you’re dreading actually come to pass. For example, if you’re waiting on news from the doctor about whether or not surgery is required for some malady think about what gear you will need to pack for the hospital stay. 

Jacinta applies the rules

Jacinta broke her foot and had a follow up appointment to see whether it was healing OK. She had an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon at 3:00 PM at the hospital. She waited until 7:30PM that night and instead of seeing the actual surgeon all she got was a junior doctor. In a ten minute consultation she was told ‘you’re doing OK, but you can’t drive for another two weeks.’

It would have seemed a wasted day, but Jacinta has had experience with this and knew what to expect (Rule 4).  When she made the appointment she asked if delays were common and was told sometimes people waited ‘a couple of hours’ (Rule 2). So, she brought some things with her to distract herself and keep her mind occupied (Rule 1). For example she had some work she had been unable to do because of constant interruptions, but the waiting room was the perfect environment to work on her lap top (Rule 3). She rang up a friend while waiting and complained, and the friend put it into perspective ‘it’s Friday, they get a lot of car accident victims on Friday evening, at least you’re not one of them!’ (Rule 4).’ 

It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but with a bit of planning and the right mindset, it didn’t turn out to be as bad a wait as it could have been. Sometimes you need to remind yourself why the wait is worth it. You can avoid the wait by not taking action on a problem. But you will inevitably have a worse situation to deal with. If waiting for minor surgery worries you, cancelling it will set you up for an even bigger worry: major surgery, after an even longer period of waiting. 

REFERNCE: Ross-Pomeroy in Forbes Magazine

Patience, they say is a virtue, but it’s also a necessity

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