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Waiting: A Tough Skill to Master

Waiting: A Tough Skill to MasterWho wants to learn how to wait well? Nobody I know. We want not to wait! We are busy people. We’ve got things to do, places to go. We don’t want to waste our time on the phone, in waiting rooms or in traffic. We can’t even wait for winter to be over with.

Because the digital age had made our life faster and easier, by contrast, the times we are forced to wait have become more annoying. Two examples:

“Your call is very important to us. It will be taken in the order in which it was received. Thank you for your patience!”

Who are they kidding? Not only is our call not very important to them (or they wouldn’t keep us waiting), they are scolding us like little children. “You have to learn to wait. It’s not your turn. Now be patient.” How condescending!

“There will be an hour wait to see the doctor. There are seven patients ahead of you.”

“Why didn’t you call and tell me that?”

“Oh, there was an emergency and that backed up the doctor.”

“Then why didn’t you call and tell me that?”

“Oh, we can’t do that!”

Who are they kidding? This is my third office visit and the third emergency patient! Doctors’ waiting rooms are so appropriately named. You sit and you wait. So, why do you put up with it? You wouldn’t wait an hour or more at a hairdresser or a service station when you had a timed appointment. Doctors, however, are in a different category, especially when you’ve got a major health issue. You need them. You are vulnerable. You can’t easily switch from one doctor to the next. Yet, does that mean that doctors can’t be more respectful of their patients’ time?

These are just two examples of waiting that could be fixed if people cared more. But let’s face it, some waiting is just part of life. Waiting for your turn in a game. Waiting for a traffic jam to break. Waiting for your plane to take off. Waiting for your cold to be gone. Waiting for your baby to be born. The bottom line? Sometimes we just must wait. We cannot always get our needs met right away.

Learning to wait patiently is such an important skill that we intuitively teach it to kids and dogs. We tell our kids, “You’ve got to wait your turn. Wait for dessert. Wait till I finish this.” We send our dogs to obedience school. “Stay, stay, stay; now go! Good boy!”

So what about us adults? Is waiting well an important skill that you have mastered? Are you patient? Do you control your impulses? Do you resist temptation?

If truth be told, most of us don’t do so well in this area, which doesn’t always make us pleasant to be around. “I’m tired of waiting for you to do what I asked you to do. What’s the matter with you?” We want others to be on top of stuff though we ourselves may use waiting as an excuse to put things off. “I’m waiting until next week to clean up my stuff.”

Improving Your Waiting Skills

So what can you do to improve your waiting skills?

Don’t wait, do. Though waiting is inevitable, the concept of feeling frustrated is not. If every time you have a “waiting” thought, you add a “meanwhile I’m doing” thought, you will be empowered. “I’m waiting for a rep to get on the phone, meanwhile, I’m answering some e-mails.” “I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, meanwhile, I’m reading a book and playing video games.” “I’m waiting for the traffic jam to break, meanwhile I’m remaining calm by listening to music.”

Because we have an illusion of control, waiting well is a tough skill to master. But it’s one of the most important skills to learn if you wish to live a relatively stress-free life.

Waiting: A Tough Skill to Master

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach in private practice who specializes in helping people become the best they can be. You can reach her at [email protected] Visit her website at Follow her on FB:

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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2018). Waiting: A Tough Skill to Master. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 14, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.