Sometimes it Pays to Wait

Sometimes It Pays to Wait

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we all have to wait.  Even royalty are governed at times and cannot be spared!  In life there are many things that we are waiting for. Waiting for Utopia, for that perfect partner, for that dream job, or simply waiting at the traffic lights or the check-out in the supermarkets.  Waiting is a big part of our life, and it can sometimes become one of the most important parts.  So we had better start to enjoy waiting, otherwise we will cause ourselves anxiety and frustration!

Waiting doesn’t seem to be a very important thing when we compare it to all that activity and doing-ness. But, hey how about giving it another thought.  Is waiting not a gestation period?  Does waiting not prepare us for what is to come?  Imagine what it would be like if things would just seem to pounce upon us; we would not be prepared to appreciate the surprises.  The wait builds up the anticipation and enthusiasm for what is to come.  The wait makes us value what is to arrive in a much better way.  We say: “It was well worth the wait.”  And actually something extra was added in that waiting.

…what we wait for seems to make
a meaningful difference to our waiting.

According to a series of new studies conducted by Cornell University, psychological scientist Thomas Gilovich found that what we wait for seems to make a meaningful difference to our waiting. In this experiment the candidates were asked to wait in line… They found that looking forward to a concert or ski vacation was much more enjoyable than looking forward to owning a new laptop. Waiting for new experiences was infused with relatively more excitement and less impatience and the ‘waiters’ were better behaved.

While the ‘waiters’ who were waiting to buy an Ipad or some other gadget were more impatient.  Furthermore when asked later to relate the experience of waiting, they deemed it as more unpleasant than those who were in the first group who had an experiential wait.  It is interesting to note here that even though the laptop has a longer life than the ski vacation, yet people’s ability and tenacity for waiting for positive ‘experience’ of some kind, seemed to be more calm, peaceful and pleasant.

So, we gather that it is not just what we are waiting for but how we wait that is important.  The waiting time for the gadget or the ski lift is the same length of time, but the correlation here from the university study shows that when we anticipate a pleasurable experience we are bound to be more comfortable and in a positive mindset.

The secret is to do something
meaningful while you wait

The secret is to do something meaningful while you wait, whatever we may be waiting for, it will make the waiting time shorter.  Did you notice how hotels place mirrors in lobbies and beside elevators?  Restaurants will give you menus to look at while you wait.  Because mirrors and menus occupy your mind while you wait, cutting down the sense of time that you spend waiting.  Simply because we have been occupied we seem to feel that time flies.

Getting stressed doesn’t help.  The more you rush for that seat at the cinema or on that plane, you just set yourself up for trouble and angst.  Be patient, be calm and you never know, you may even be upgraded!  Stress just does not get you there any faster!

In ‘The Psychology of Waiting Lines’ by David H. Maister, he suggests that it is always good to let the ‘waiter’ know how late you’re going to be.  Studies show that when people have a wait time, they seem to be more patient and tolerant.  Companies such as Fed-Ex certainly have all that figured out, which is why they keep updating their customers on the time of arrival of their packet.  So, information and communication are the keys.  Once we have information we are more compliant.

Maister goes on to say: The perceived value affects tolerance to waiting and can be demonstrated by our common experience in restaurants. He continues: We will accept a much longer waiting time at the haute cuisine establishment than at the ‘greasy spoon’. In universities, there is an old rule of thumb that says if the teacher is delayed: ‘You wait ten minutes for an assistant professor, fifteen minutes for an associate professor, and twenty minutes for a full professor.’

This illustrates well the principle that tolerance for waiting depends upon our perceived value of service.  Perhaps the emphasis here should be on the perception. It follows from this principle that waiting for something of little value can seem intolerable.  Maister gives the example of a flight, the passenger has been enjoying his service, and during the flight he has been patient.  That is up until the plane lands, and then his tolerance level goes to zero as he scrambles to be one of the first off the plane.

…we are here to enjoy those waiting experiences in life… 

One friend recently shared with me her theory on security guards.  She said: “They are paid to wait and not to shoot.” They are paid to wait in a sense.  And if there is no action, that is no trouble, then they will still be paid.  So too, let us remember that we are here to enjoy those waiting experiences in life too, they may often be the most fruitful and meaningful ones in our life.  Why don’t you start to make use of your waiting time?

It’s Time… to get busy chatting with the person next to you in the line, who is also… well… waiting.  You may find you have a lot in common and strike up a meaningful conversation, it will always make the wait easier, and who knows that person might be just the one that you had been waiting for all along!


© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK



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