How do you convince people to be patient?

Business Leader Post, July 4, 2014

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Within the first few weeks of every new consultation, my clients invariably want it to be over and done. After only a meeting or two, they say, "Nothing has changed."
I understand their wish for the consultation to happen quickly. Their existing discomfort is unpleasant, and their expectation/wish is that I will “fix it."  Given the assumption that I am the fixer, the message to me is that somehow I am not moving the process along; and I become the receiver of their discomfort which manifests itself as impatience.

My response is to explain to them that the situation which I have been called in to address has taken years to develop and is a consequence of a lot of complicated relationships that have existed over time. Changing those dynamics does not happen quickly. In fact, when there is a quick change in behavior, the chances of it being sustainable are non-existent. It is like dieting: the quicker the weight loss, the slimmer the chances of keeping the weight off; the slower the process, the greater the chances are of keeping the weight off.

I also explain that the real work will be done by the family members themselves. Of course everybody knows that is true from the beginning, but it takes a little bit of time to internalize that reality.

The impatience and the complaining about “nothing really changing” usually goes on for a minimum of about three to four months.  The experience of the work being done during that period usually gives the family members an inkling that things could be different if they continued to work at it.

The complaining stops when the family understands that the source of change is within their control both as a family and as individual members of that family. That understanding translates into their taking responsibility for the change versus expecting the “expert”/authority to change them.  As people begin to behave differently towards one another, their positive behavior creates a new dynamic which feeds on itself; and the change continues to happen.

The key to success is to stay in the race.  One cannot win the race unless one stays in it.