In the Western business world, being late is a grave sin. It can lose you jobs, lose you clients, and generally tank your career and even your personal relationships.
This perspective that dominates the Western world has many benefits. It makes the trains run on time. It’s respectful to whoever your next meeting is with. It makes coordinating schedules relatively easy. It’s great for people who live in worlds with deadlines.
People who love planners, organization, and order generally thrive in our culture - especially in business.
Some people take this so seriously, that people will fire people, not hire people, and destroy relationships with people over tardiness or missed meetings.
What’s interesting is that while we here in America think that’s just the way things are, there are cultures and individuals around the world that view time differently. Here, we might consider those people lazy or call them loafers, but we should just recognize it for what it is: a difference in how we experience the world.
As I mentioned earlier, the first point of view is great for for the NEXT person you’re meeting with. Their time won’t be wasted waiting for you. However, it’s not always great for the person that is in front of you right now. If you’re in a meeting or a personal exchange that is deeply enriching for both parties, is it really respectful to you or the other person to cut it off simply because you have another conversation scheduled at some random time?
While diversity for immutable characteristics is important, sometimes bridging this mental diversity is more difficult for individuals and businesses. Our true breakthroughs when dealing with other people start with the recognition that all our views of the world are different - including our perspectives on time. This difference in particular is far more important than you might think.
In nuerolinguistic programming, these two viewpoints are referred to as being “thru-time” and being “in-time.” Thru-time is the orderly, punctual, planner. In-time is the person who sees the present moment most clearly.
In the West, the dominant perspective is certainly thru-time. However, in the world of art, and other worlds like that, people tend to be more in-time. Being in-time is great for spontaneity, creativity, and flexibility.
Though it’s certainly true you would probably prefer someone who is thru-time to track your deadlines at your accounting office.
Workplaces are becoming more diversified in America, often times marrying creative types with business types and there are certain to be culture clashes the more that this happens.
Personal relationships have just as much difficulty bridging this gap in perspective. I often work with couples who view time differently and don’t realize that this is the crux of all their marital problems. The spontaneous wife showing up 20 minutes late for dates after being so caught up in a conversation with her girlfriend over a glass of wine and the disrespected husband waiting 20 minutes at a restaurant, fuming more every minute that passes.
Whether in business or your personal life, recognize that you often need different personalities around you and with that will come differing perspectives on how you experience and view time. Instead of defaulting to our culture’s predominant position, know the people around you and appreciate the inconvenient differences that make your relationship interesting and beneficial.
Your life coach.