I am always glad to see the words, “Thank you for your patience.” I like them so much more than "Thanks in advance"—a thoughtless, ill-considered and standard closing of bill collectors and which has been adopted by too many people who ask for something and then thank the reader in advance for doing it. Writing the words Thanks in advance is presumptuous; thank you for your patience is not, although it often lands in a similar position at the close of a piece of communication, whether e-mail or hard copy.
I read the words this morning from my banker who was attempting to resolve a bank discrepancy that he had already admitted was the bank's fault. I didn't care whose fault it was as long as my account was credited with the money that had gone missing.
Having promised to fix the first attempt at fixing the problem that hadn't fixed it, my banker concluded with: “Thank you for your patience.”
I thought it was exactly the right moment to use those words because I had waited for him to work out the solution and to implement it--a few business days.
But knowing when to be patient is not always as simple as that. When I first learned of this problem, my friend Sue offered me two words that she said worked best at encouraging others to solve your problem: "Squeaky wheel," said Sue.
I agree with her, but I also think there's a timing involved in being an effective squeaky wheel--a balance that allows for being patient, too.
I squeaked a little by explaining the problem, and then I waited.
The process reminded me of that brief flash of a parable in the book of Luke where Jesus shows us a fig tree that is not bearing fruit fast enough. Tempted to cut it down, the story says, "Let's be patient. Poke the soil. Give it time." Eugene Peterson interprets that story in THE MESSAGE in a context that teaches people with problems to solve how to be patient, for that is what the story is saying. There's a time to weed and uproot and a time to poke the soil, maybe add some fertilizer, and then wait for progress to happen.
I lean that way more often than not. While it is tempting to squeak loudly (and I saw this done recently at Walmart when a woman was denied a refund for a product that didn't work, and she stood her ground and said, "You expect me to swallow a hundred dollars for a piece of junk!"--the tactic worked; she got her money) but, in general, I'm not comfortable squeaking loudly in public or on the page or screen.
Instead, I try to use facts to present my case; and having presented it, I wait. And present it again--and wait until some inner buzzer declares: Long enough.
Then, I squeak some more, but so often I don't have to do that. So often, the facts and patient waiting bear the fruit of resolving a problem, and I haven't gotten upset or upset anyone else. And during the interim while information may be passed back and forth, what used to be called a paper trail is created. That trail is necessary for referencing later—to remind people who may need to understand what has happened so that it won’t happen again what did occur as it was recorded in a dispassionate way.
The next time you have a problem to solve or a complaint to register, spend your energy on the polite presentation of facts that represent your cause first. Then, watch the solution grow--along with your patience. Gratitude for resolution naturally flows from this occurrence, and it should. Don’t be slow in saying, “Thank you” for someone’s patience or for any other reason at all.
Daphne Simpkins' most recent book is Christmas in Fountain City