The Power of Patience

A couple weeks ago, I went to my regular hairdresser for a cut. She already had a man in the chair and an older man arrived just before me, which meant that it would be about 30 minutes before I could get in. No problem, I thought.

I left and came back 25 minutes later, taking a seat in the waiting area so she could finish up with the man who had entered moments before the first time I went in. I figured it wouldn’t take long because this 70-ish year old guy was bald on top and had about a three inch strip of hair at the base of his skull. Quick and easy, right? As it turns out, not so much.

The woman who came with him got up and was standing next to the hairdresser, giving her precise instructions on how to cut this man’s hair. At one point, she even took the scissors and comb from the stylist’s hands, showing her exactly what she wanted her to do. All I could think was, “Seriously? This guy has no hair! And if this woman wants it cut this exact way, why doesn’t she just do it herself?”

Now, this went on for five minutes, then ten minutes, and, before I knew it, I found myself losing my patience. Although this haircut of his should’ve taken about four minutes total, it was taking forever and, based on the in-depth guidance provided by his female companion, would likely never be good enough anyway.

Feeling at the end of my patience limits, the man finally stands up and I’m a little relieved because he’s finally done. But that relief was short-lived once I realized that he was just standing in order to go to the hair wash area to remove any left behind strands. Then he actually sits down again so the hairdresser can “touch up” his cut…all three inches of the patch of hair on the back of his head!

Here I was, about ready to lose it, yet there stood my hairdresser, cool as could be. She was super calm and went along with the woman’s demands without letting it get to her, almost like she—the professional—was being schooled by her cosmetology teacher, showing her how to give her client a good cut.

This was a profound learning experience for me, reminding me that there are always going to be people in my life who will test my patience. And while I may want to give them an earful, sharing what I think about how their actions have impacted my life, the best approach is generally to do what my hairdresser did, just breathe and smile…and then let it go.

This is true personally and professionally as sometimes it’s much healthier to be patient when dealing with the very people who are responsible for our livelihoods, the people who pay us for our business talents. If the hairdresser had responded with anger or resentment, for instance, it probably would’ve made her actual client (the older gentleman) feel uncomfortable or even sorry for his companion’s unrelenting direction, potentially keeping him from coming back to her again.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s healthy to be a doormat and let your clients walk all over you, but sometimes just a little patience and understanding can go a long way. Both to the people you serve and the people who are watching you serve. And someone is always watching.

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