Defining Moments Shaped By Patience
A quote from Christian song artist Toby Mac inspires a different thought on the underrated underused undervalued attribute of patience. Advanced skills in negotiation, communication, listening, and neutrality are commonly named when listing characteristics of effective mediators. While all of the above mentioned characteristics can be observed in successful mediators, perhaps the least noted characteristic is patience.
As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ‘patience’ is to be “able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.”
Re-reading the above sentence with the word ‘mediator’ inserted for ‘patience’, and one has a pretty accurate description of how mediators go about forming resolutions between disputing parties. The mediation process is a tool that mediators apply to bring about resolutions to all types of disputes. Within the framework of mediation, individuals in a high stress state are guided through a process of peaceful discourse instead of retaliatory banter. To succeed in applying the mediation process, mediators appropriately adapt communication styles, listen keenly to what is said, and remain neutral throughout the mediation session. However, the root trait that enables mediators to successfully mobilize the other conflict resolution skills they possess is patience. With patience as the foundation, advanced skills in negotiation, communication, listening and neutrality can thrive. Without patience prejudgments are made, participants in mediation are rushed to make their statements instead of given adequate time to be heard, and calm communication becomes curt. Indeed a mediator can be said to have been patient in a mediation when they remained calm, did not become annoyed when waiting for a long time, or angered when dealing with difficult problems or strong emotions.
Patience in Daily Interactions
Outside of mediation, the public as a whole can take greater steps in controlling problems and avoiding undesirable outcomes by incorporating more patience in daily interactions with others. For example, if in a hurry and caught behind a slower driver why not wait for a safe time to pass instead of risking a car accident. Tailgating or cutting off a driver in a nearby lane could result in a fender bender. On the other hand, taking the time to incorporate a little patience in the moment could avoid a catastrophe.
Forgetting to be patient exacerbates tense moments rather than deescalates them. The consequences of reacting to every annoyance is visible in workplaces, in interpersonal relationships, business relationships, and in the judicial system. Courthouses are congested with lawsuits stemming from unresolved escalated problems. According to the 2015 Annual Statistical Report for the Texas Judiciary, there were 399,739 active civil cases pending in Justice Courts as of August 31, 2015. This number does not include civil or family cases pending in County Courts, District Courts, Appellate Courts, or the Texas Supreme Court.
To master practicing patience it must be applied in the smallest of circumstances no matter the degree of frustration felt in the heat of the moment. Even in situations that call for immediate action one can still take a moment to determine what action to take. Otherwise, we behave reactionary instead of responsive. Mediators understand that they cannot react to each statement made by parties in a mediation session. They must carefully consider what the individual is truly saying and how to respond without agitating the situation. Next time frustration, stress, or anger start to get the best of you remember the words of Toby Mac, “A moment of patience in a moment of anger can save you a hundred moments of regret”.
Serving Tarrant County and surrounding areas, Dispute Resolution Services of North Texas Inc. is a non-profit community dispute resolution organization of professional volunteer mediators who provide affordable mediation services and teach mediation and dispute and conflict resolution, an effective alternative to litigation. Click here to learn more about the mediation process.
Author: Annette Smith received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Texas A&M University. During her employment with DRS North Texas, she has developed the mediation training program, provided support in volunteer management, and managed over 1000 mediation cases. In 2015, she became the agency’s marketing coordinator.
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