It’s probably one of the most uncomfortable words in the English language. Contrast “toleration” with “tolerance,” and while they are closely related, they conjure up a very different emotional response, don’t they?
In the most basic context, “toleration” is when we are feeling frustrated or are bothered by something or someone “doing something” that we don’t like. At the highest level, the experience can cause a distressing feeling of suffering. In a work environment, it’s most common to look at our co-worker or colleague and feel anger toward them as “he/she is the one causing my misery right now.” However, this is a great time to think about re-framing the problem. When you feel any of those negative emotions, take a few minutes and ask the question, “what am I tolerating in this experience?”
As a personal example, a few years ago, I was very frustrated with a colleague who was consistently late to the meetings we scheduled. He always had reasons and apologized, but it caused scheduling issues for me. I often had a large amount of detail to go through, and the meetings would extend later than we had planned. After asking myself the “tolerating question,” I was clear on the issue and made a plan to address it and set a boundary with him. I scheduled a 10-minute sync with him. I let him know that I love working with him, want to continue to be a cross-functional collaborative partner, and need to set a boundary around our scheduled meetings as we would be ending them on time from now on. I let him know, should we not be able to cover everything because of his tardiness, he would need to own rescheduling at another time. The next time we had a scheduled meeting, he was late. I took note that I genuinely was NOT angry or frustrated. When he arrived, we went through as much as we could, then I ended the meeting on time. He was flustered, so I assured him that we could meet at another time later that day to go through the rest of the critical information, if my schedule permitted. And I reminded him that I will always have a hard stop at our scheduled times per our conversation. This pattern continued, but I held firm on the boundary. Did his behavior change? No. Did my mindset shift? Yes. Clear communication, setting boundaries, and not attaching any energy to it, worked.
Tolerating is draining. It’s often a sign of a missing conversation and on the other side of that conversation is relief.
So. What are you tolerating today?