Tolerance is something that can be related to sociability, as in being able to deal with crazy coworkers and customers without loosing your self-control, but it also refers to the ability to cope with any developments that don't go the way you'd prefer. On a project, for instance, you could have a superior that decided to go along with some other employee's idea that you know will be less effective, or perhaps you are asked by management to make a detailed paper trail of what you do when you've never had to worry about paperwork before (and no-one likes to imagine someone looking over their shoulder). There are a myriad of different reasons why being tolerant could fit into the workplace, but they all lead to the same conclusion: if you want to be fully successful in the business world, you will find times you will have to tolerate people and ideas that you dislike or perhaps even loathe.

Tolerance is something that plays in every other aspect of daily life as well. For instance, a marriage is rarely successful because two people can come to the exact same conclusions at the exact same times (although the brain can be wired to believe in this illusion); a marriage's success is in large part due to the ability of the couple to tolerate and sometimes even welcome their spouses differences in both behavior and opinions. If you feel that your spouse is the living in an alternate reality of continuously harboring stupid thoughts and decisions, there is probably more than stark reality involved—there might be an emotional element here. If a marriage is to work, both parties have to learn to listen to and respect each other and be open to the fact that they might not always be right (or at least that it doesn't matter that much). In the business world, where the emotional involvement isn't exactly the same—I hope—you will need to learn to choose your battles and live with others that irritate you to no end. The problem is that unless you hired the entire staff, you didn't get to choose these particular bedmates!

If you have anger issues then this is something you will need to focus on, and I hope that you make this a focus for your life outside the business world as well. If your feelings of anger or resentment (or jealousy, etc.) are out of control then all the self-reflection and good intentions in the world will mean nothing because you will not be able to truly act on those intentions—your extreme emotions are acting on you! If you have anger or some other strong emotional pull then you will need to drop what you are doing and focus on dealing with this elephant before you work on any other virtue dealing with sociability or living well with others; once you get these problems ironed out the path will be more clear. Working on these issues usually involved learning about the source of these problems, developing coping techniques, changing your environment, and perhaps getting professional help.

Once you have self-control you can use careful self-reflection and robust goal-setting to apply that control where it is needed. Whenever you are considering lashing-out at someone, gossiping, "going behind backs", or otherwise acting out in frustration you really need to stop and consider what is going on first—especially when first focusing on this virtue. You need to ask yourself these questions (it helps to write these answers down when first starting, with detailed explanations when time permits):

  • Why am I angry, annoyed, frustrated, etc.?
  • Is all of it justified, or is some of it blown out of proportion in my head?
  • How am I planning to respond? What is the possible benefit of this reaction? What is the possible fallout?
  • If I don't respond, what are the possible benefits and fallout?
  • Are the benefits worth any potential effect on my life at the workplace or the stability of my job, if present?
  • Does the other person(s) involved deserve to this reaction?

Once you start asking yourself questions like these, you are able to make more moral, ethical, and wise decisions. This is something of a learned trait—something that all human beings naturally learn to some extent in their formative years—but nevertheless a trait that can be grown and developed through conscious activities. Once you practice writing these answers down (you may want to take care to keep them private) and practice doing this internally, you will soon be in the habit of being wiser in all of your social decisions almost automatically. You may soon start sending fewer emails to coworkers with words like "moron" or the implied variations of them, for instance.

These questions should also be applied to reactions concerning new policy or new responsibilities. If you are going to ignore new guidelines or try to petition some new aspect of your job be given to someone else, these same questions will guide you to wise decisions in these issues as well. In fact, they can be applied to almost all situations involving wisdom and tolerance. And while it may sometimes be difficult to write down these answers or even carefully think these through when you are in the moment, going over these questions afterward will still help you make wiser decisions in the future. This is especially true in areas like customer service.

Note: While it seems I am promoting a lax, almost submissive attitude with this virtue, this shouldn't be meant to assume I am suggesting that one permit abuse or poisonous relationships—even more especially outside of the workplace. For this article, I am working under the assumption that you are working on tolerance for the business world and you do not always have a lot of power and control over how you do your job or who you associate with. Tolerance outside of this environment is obviously going to be a little different.

Here are some activities that might help you develop tolerance for the business world:


  • Find Something Out of Control, and Brainstorm Solutions: Whether this be anger, jealousy, eating, smoking, or whatever (tolerance and self-control can go hand-in-hand),choose one and write down any little (or big) activity or change you think would help you get control on this issue. Next, be your own guinea pig! What helped, and what didn't? You should be making a few written notes as you gather ideas and try them out. After you do this you should make a plan to control these problems using the techniques you learned. Make sure you move on to all the bigger problems that may specifically inhibit your tolerance.
  • Do Your Research: This can be combined with the activity above, but instead of focusing on self-reflection alone, learn what experts are saying—and others who are working through the same issue as well. You may have made some assumptions about your problem that were just plain wrong. Self-reflection is essential, but it is nigh impossible to continually be a unbiased observer of yourself.
  • Keep a Detailed Journal of the Questions Above: In the article there were some questions that were suggested you ask yourself when you lose control of your tolerance. Instead of doing it all in your head, make a detailed account in a journal of some sort; make sure you give yourself a minimum time you must keep the journal up. You may not want to do it forever, but you want to do it long enough that you get in the habit of asking yourself these questions, think about these problems deeply, or at least be more aware of these issues involved. You might want to consider doing this for a month.
  • Ask for Help: There must be someone you trust out there that will provide support. It can be really helpful to get ideas or emotional support from someone who knows who you are and who is warm enough with you to help you out.
  • Think About Your Service, and then One-Up Yourself: Think about your general behavior while providing customer service or working with coworkers. How do you respond? How helpful are you? What's your attitude? What is your body language saying? Next, try to improve each of these ideas for a specified time with specific goals planned out—maybe a week each. This could be keeping a smiling, straight face when given annoying requests by customers, or avoiding negativity when correcting coworkers "stupid" mistakes, etc. This can obviously go beyond tolerance, but if you are focusing on this trait you should think especially of the bad habits that tend to complicate your interactions in business life.

Your Record

Whenever you lose control of your emotions or a bad habit in an inappropriate place, then mark yourself at "fault". When you lose control of your social reactions—whether it be by anger, disdain, inappropriate laughter or facial expression—then mark yourself at fault. Make some strong goals and plans using the ideas up above or from your own research, and mark yourself at fault when you fail to follow through.


Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.

Seneca, Roman Philosopher

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

Benjamin Franklin, Renown American Founder, Statesman, Philosopher, Writer, and Inventor

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.

Friedrich Nietzsche, German Philosopher and Critic of Culture

Golden Mean

Narrow-mindedness, intolerance

Recommended Reading

Converging Paths: Lessons of Compassion, Tolerance and Understanding from East and West — by Susan Santucci

This book is filled with ideas and inspiration about tolerance from all around the world.

The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life — by Thomas M. Sterner

This book aims to teach you to be satisfied with the present moment, and not being moved with every emotional surge in your body. A good guide for those looking for new ideas for Self-Control as part of their regimen toward tolerance.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

I believe with all my heart that civilization has produced nothing finer than a man or woman who thinks and practices true tolerance. Frank Knox