I often hear from my patients how busy they, their careers and their lives are. Occasionally, their impatient, abrupt or frankly disruptive behaviors at home or at work are blamed upon simply not having the time to slow down to deal with others more gently or explain things more patiently. In their haste they find themselves bogged down by having to deal with others’ hurt feelings, confusion or seeming incompetence; this, of course, only makes matters worse as they then have to apologize, remediate the situation or reexplain things, all in the context of the limited resource of time.
On the way into work this morning, I heard a great piece on NPR about “scarcity.” The piece compared how poor people often mismanage money (e.g., buying lottery tickets, renting large tv’s, etc) to how busy people often mismanage time. Both groups of people have trouble managing their limited resource. I found this fascinating and directly relevant to many of my patients. I do a lot of psychotherapy and remedial coaching with physicians, other healthcare professionals and executives, and I find that nearly all of them are truly quite busy and they work very demanding schedules. But it never ceases to amaze me how so many of these brilliant people struggle to appreciate the need to devote time to their interactions with other people. I’m not a huge fan of Steve Covey’s “7 Habits” but I love the one where he says, “with people, fast is slow and slow is fast.” You can’t rush relationships. You can’t speed up communications beyond a certain threshold. Instead we need to devote sufficient time to our interpersonal relationships, to nurturing them and communicating effectively within them.