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All About You: Here’s to being more patient in 2023!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Another year has whizzed by! I hope you enjoyed it and had many meaningful moments.

Although I don’t put much effort into making typical New Year’s resolutions anymore, I do like to reflect on what I’ve experienced and learned during the past 12 months – particularly how I’ve changed. This self-evaluation has helped me improve my self-awareness and inspired me to improve my skills and deepen my insight throughout the upcoming year.

This year, I plan on being more patient. Not that I consider myself generally impatient, but patience is a powerful life skill worth strengthening – no matter how patient you are naturally.

Here are five of my favorite benefits of patience.

  1. You feel calmer. (Others will notice this, too.)
  2. You tend to enjoy moments more – partly because you won’t be as easily frustrated.
  3. Your decision-making improves. You’ll make fewer rash decisions.
  4. You’ll become a better listener. Patience is a mainstay of active listening.
  5. Your ability to concentrate strengthens, meaning you’ll be better able to solve problems.

Here are three common situations in which I plan to be more patient this year:

When others are talking. No doubt you’ve met and worked with people who are slow to get their point across or tell a story. The saying, “To make a long story short,” doesn’t apply when they explain something. Although I’m good about letting people finish their thoughts, I sometimes start thinking about other things that don’t apply to the topic when the person is slow in describing what they’re talking about.

As safety and health professionals, we need to be patient when workers explain field issues. We’re sometimes quick to reply because we either know the answer to a question or can describe what needs to happen. But “jumping the gun” with our response can signal that we’re impatient, and we might miss out on the complete explanation.

While waiting. Recently, I had a dentist’s appointment – often a perfect setup to practice patience. As the minutes ticked by, I noticed I was feeling a bit anxious. But, rather than let the negative emotion grow, I consciously relaxed and waited patiently.

This kind of awareness helps you better handle “waiting” situations whenever they arise. “Waiting anxiety” – an actual psychological term – is common in our fast-paced society. And too often, I notice people getting highly agitated – even angry – by a mere few extra minutes of delay.

Another tactic that helps me better handle waiting is spending my waiting time being grateful. During my dental delay, I thought about the sobering fact that millions of people worldwide don’t have access to professional dental care – and how fortunate I am to be able to go to the dentist.

When things aren’t going my way as quickly as I’d like. Whether it’s a new safety and health initiative or even a simple workforce behavior change, it sometimes takes longer than you want for any noticeable improvement to occur. Especially if the changes involve removing ingrained behaviors, the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude can slow the transition. However, realizing that progress may take a while helps me be optimistic about the changes I’m trying to implement. One time, I was commissioned to work with a multidepartment team to improve the safety relationship between the union and management at a large facility. It took several weeks before any real breakthroughs occurred. But change did set in.

The same thing applies to our personal development. I’ll need to be patient about being more patient! It won’t happen overnight, but if you and I are diligent in improving and sticking to it, we’ll see progress.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at makesafetyfun.com.

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