Impatience, Conflict, and Covid-19

Impatience can be a big contributor to conflict, and an obstacle to effective conflict resolution. I started writing a post about this impatience/conflict connection long before so many of us were stuck at home, working or not, impatiently wondering when we’ll ever be set free.

We are all under stress

We are all under tremendous stress, which can lead to outbursts with co-workers, or even with those we love. We are deprived of so much, that we can want immediate gratifications or quick solutions. Many of us find it challenging to be at home full time instead of going off to work and having space from family concerns. Others of us are courageously going to work in dangerous situations, worried we will bring the illness home to our loved ones.

Even working from home feels different

I have worked out of a home office for years, seeing clients, consulting, and delivering some trainings by Zoom. but I am still deeply affected by all the changes.

I wish I had a HazMat suit to put on before I go to the grocery store. I miss going to the gym and out to eat. I miss seeing my friends live and in person.  I get frustrated and fearful, trying to sterilize everything before bringing it into the house. I love my wife but our house feels way too small at times. Other times I feel like I’m four years old and I want to hide under the covers from a scary and treacherous world.

Conflict Resolution requires patience

In these difficult circumstances, it is, of course, helpful to be willing to listen, to speak our truth, and to problem-solve at work and with family, but it is challenging not to be impatient with others about that process as well! We may irritably want them to quickly get to the point.

One truth I know–trying to hurry and force solutions simply doesn’t work to heal disagreements. Avoiding conflicts or resolving them effectively requires patience, even when it feels in short supply (along with toilet paper). Why? People need time to process, to let things sink in, to work through their resentments and other feelings.

Impatient Services Director

For a while, I was tracking all the kinds of jobs that ask people to have conflict management skills on the big job search site, Indeed. One job opening had the  (misspelled) title of “Impatient Services Director”. I laughed so hard, because I was certainly qualified for that position! For me, it is life-long work to become more patient.

So no matter what your current circumstances, how can you find more patience and have less conflict?

Here are a few suggestions to help you be patient with yourself and others:

  1. Breathe in and out a few times first before responding or acting. (Note: heavy passive aggressive sighing doesn’t count).
  2. Give yourself and others a break. Remember we are all under stress and may not be as calm or articulate as usual.
  3. Don’t expect as much. Anxiety is draining. Looking for food or supplies is draining. Feeling at risk when you have to leave the house is draining. Staying in the house with kids, spouse, or alone are all draining. Naps are good, if possible.
  4. Reframe. Even after a meltdown. Your day and communication style can restart at any moment.
  5. Forgive yourself and others. Be gentle. Remember love. Remember we are all doing the best we can in a frightening crisis. Remember this too shall pass.

Lorraine Segal

Lorraine Segal, M.A. is a Conflict Management and Communication Consultant, Coach, and Trainer. Through her own business, Conflict Remedy, Ms. Segal works with corporations and non-profits as well as governmental entities and individuals to promote harmonious and productive workplaces.  She is a consultant and trainer for County of Sonoma. And, at Sonoma… MORE >

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