Researchers reveal the secret to waiting in line patiently

By Arianne Cohen

The next time you’re silently fuming at the slowwwww progress of the line at Starbucks or interminable traffic on the freeway, know that your rage is normal. “We spend a substantial part of our daily life waiting, and unfortunately, wait time can fuel aggressive tendencies,” write the authors of a new study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior that explains how to wait better.

The trick is to think as concretely as possible, which makes you perceive the wait time as shorter. Avoid abstract thinking, which typically gives negative meaning to your wait, and spurs negative emotions. “When someone is late for a call, if you think abstractly, you may think that they don’t respect your time, or don’t think the call is important, and therefore you might become mad,” says Dorit Efrat-Treister, an organizational psychologist at Ben-Gurion University. “But if you think they may have just misplaced your number or got another call first, you won’t become so annoyed.”

No, your precious day is not being wasted by an understaffed checkout line; shopping takes time, and that’s what you’re doing. No, your very-late coworker is not subtly dissing you; she got caught in traffic. Patience, it turns out, is a hackable skill, not a virtue.


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