Whatever Happened to Patience?

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IMPATIENCE has been around for a long time. There is nothing new about people losing their patience while stuck in traffic or waiting in line. But some experts believe that people are less patient today than in the past—and for reasons that might surprise you.

Some analysts suggest that in recent years many people are less patient because of technology. According to The Gazette of Montreal, Canada, some researchers suggest that “digital technology, from cellphones to cameras to email to iPods, is changing our lives . . . The instant results we get from this technology have in turn increased our appetite for instant gratification in other aspects of our lives.”

Family psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein makes some sobering observations. She explains that “we have become an immediate gratification culture, and we expect things to move quickly, efficiently and in the way we want. When that doesn’t happen, we tend to become increasingly  frustrated and irritable, [a sign] of impatience.” She adds, “We’ve lost the art of just slowing down and enjoying the moment.”

Some believe that e-mail is losing popularity and could soon become obsolete. Why? Because many people who send messages do not have the patience to wait hours, or even minutes, for a response. Also, with e-mails, as with letter writing, introductory and concluding greetings are often expected. But many people consider such formalities to be boring and time-consuming. They prefer instant messaging, which does not require the protocols of e-mail. It seems that people just do not have the patience to type polite greetings! Many people do not take the time to proofread what they put in writing. As a result, letters and e-mails go out to the wrong recipients or contain numerous grammatical and typographical errors.

Many people do not have the patience to read lengthy text on a printed page

The thirst for immediate results is not limited to the realm of digital communication. People seem to be losing their ability to wait in other areas of life. For instance, do you ever find yourself talking too fast, eating too fast, driving too fast, or spending money too fast? The few moments it takes to wait for an elevator to come, for a traffic light to change, or for a computer to boot up may seem like an eternity.

Experts have observed that many people do not have the patience to read through lengthy text in print. Why? Because they are accustomed to navigating speedily through Web pages, jumping from blurb to blurb and from bullet to bullet, hoping to land on the main point as quickly as possible.

Whatever happened to patience? Experts do not have all the answers when it comes to the causes of impatience. Yet, there seems to be compelling evidence that impatience can be harmful. The following articles discuss some of the risks of impatience and what you can do to be more patient.

Many people are accustomed to navigating speedily through Web pages, jumping from blurb to blurb.

Impatience Can Be Harmful

IMAGINE this scenario: A man is driving on a two-lane road in a no-passing zone. The woman in the car in front of him is driving slightly under the maximum speed limit. To the impatient man, she seems to be driving far too slowly. After dangerously tailgating her vehicle for a few minutes, he loses all patience and passes her at a high rate of speed. In the process, he breaks the law and risks causing an accident.

What about the woman who does not have the patience to work with people who are not as fast or as smart as she is? Or the man who when waiting for an elevator keeps impatiently pushing the call button? Do you often become impatient with your elderly parents? Or are you a parent who quickly runs out of patience with your young children? Are you easily annoyed by the mistakes of others?

Everyone is likely to become impatient on occasion. But there may be serious consequences when bouts of impatience are an everyday occurrence.

Health risks:

For one thing, impatience is linked to frustration, irritation, and even anger. Such emotions can raise our stress level, which in turn can harm our health. A recent study published by the American Medical Association specifically pointed to impatience as a risk factor for hypertension, even among young adults.

There are other health problems associated with the lack of patience. A recent study revealed that impatience is linked to obesity. “The researchers found that impatient individuals are more likely to be obese than people who are good at waiting,” reports The Washington Post. In some areas, inexpensive fast food is easily available at all times of the day, and many impatient people cannot resist the temptation.


A study by the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research found that impatient people are likely to be chronic procrastinators. Could it be that they feel compelled to postpone time-consuming tasks because they do not have the patience needed to bring the tasks to completion? At any rate, the tendency to postpone can have serious consequences for the procrastinator as well as for the economy. According to The Telegraph, a newspaper in Britain, researcher Ernesto Reuben stated that “procrastination seriously affects our productivity at work and can cost people considerable amounts of money as [impatient people] postpone paperwork indefinitely.”

Alcohol abuse and violence:

According to the British newspaper South Wales Echo, “people who are impatient are more likely to be involved in late-night drink-fueled violence.” Researchers at Cardiff University established this link after studying hundreds of men and women. The study revealed, says the Echo, that “impatient people were more likely to drink alcohol heavily and were prone to violence.”

Poor judgment:

A group of analysts working for the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., found that impatient people “often make quick, shallow choices.” Dr. Ilango Ponnuswami, professor and head of the Department of Social Work at the Bharathidasan University in India, reached a similar conclusion. He explains: “Impatience will cost you. It can cost you money, friendships, pain and suffering or any number of consequences simply because impatience is often followed by bad decisions.”

 Financial woes:

Impatience has been linked to “higher debt levels,” says Research Review, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, U.S.A. For instance, impatient newlyweds may want to have all the comforts of a home soon after the wedding, despite limited finances. So they buy the house, the furniture, the car, and everything else—on credit. This practice can harm the marriage. Researchers from the University of Arkansas, U.S.A., say that “newly married couples who bring debt into their marriage are less happy than couples who bring little or no debt into marriage.”

Some blame impatience for the recent economic crash in the United States. The financial magazine Forbes claims that “the state of the present market is the consequence of undue impatience combined with excessive greed. Impatience led many thousands of ordinary people to seek to acquire properties of much higher value than their savings justified. They thus sought to borrow collectively immense sums that they could not hope to repay for many years—and, in some cases, ever.”

Loss of friends:

Impatience can damage our ability to communicate. When a person does not have the patience to engage in meaningful conversation, he tends to speak without thinking. He may also get annoyed when others speak. Such a person does not have the patience to wait for others to get to the point of what they are saying. So the impatient listener may tend to rush others into finishing their sentences by putting words in their mouth or may try to find some other way to hurry the conversation.

Such impatience can result in the loss of friendships. Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, a mental-health professional quoted in the preceding article, explains: “Who wants to be with somebody who is tapping [his or her] toes all the time [or] looking at the watch all the time?” Yes, impatience is not a very attractive quality. It will drive your friends away.

These are just a few of the bad consequences that may result from impatience. The following article will discuss how you can cultivate and maintain patience