Rhythm and Compatibility

Yesterday, I went to work with some people and discovered myself to be a disruptive influence. I was impatient and couldn’t understand why I had to wait around when I could see what had to be done and wanted to get on with it. I actually became rude and forced my co-workers into a routine that was not their usual way of working.  From the looks and actions of others around me, I realised that I was being uncivilized.  I apologized to the person in charge but I worried about my behaviour for the rest of the day.  Eventually, I realised what was wrong.  My rhythm of work was not compatible with the rhythm of those around me.

I had discovered this mismatch of rhythms as a source of incompatibility many years ago but had not given it serious consideration. After my retirement and as a loner, I work at home without having to match my rhythm with anyone else’s so I had forgotten about it but the incident yesterday woke me once more to a consideration of the mismatch of rhythms as a source of incompatibility.

Rhythm is either fast-or slow-paced. In music you have slow and fast movements that complement one another. Some music remains basically slow and others fast. Hip-hop, or is it rap? (I don’t know the difference) is fast paced and frenetic and its appeal is mainly to the young and energetic.

What makes rhythm either fast or slow?  I believe it boils down to pace and intensity. Some people work with great intensity and speed while others are more relaxed and take their time. Fast workers get down to work, hardly stopping until they finish. Relaxed workers take their time, split their attention between the task and other tasks and social activities.  Fast workers are probably prone to hypertension. I think that because I am hypertensive.

I am one of those who work with intensity and pace. When I look back over my life, I see that I get on best with those whose rhythms match mine. My helper (domestic worker) and I get on fabulously because our work rhythms match. She gets on with the job and doesn’t stop until she has finished. I get out of her way and leave the house to her; she knows what she is doing and does not need me around.

There are two men who occasionally do small jobs for me. The first is like me: he knows what he has to do and gets on with it.  He doesn’t even stop to eat. The only interruptions he experiences are when I go out to offer him a drink or a bite.  The other man, who is extremely competent, works in a relaxed way. He stretches a job out over days and takes frequent breaks to visit with other people. You have guessed it; I give preference to the first man.

But there are great disadvantages in being a fast worker.. The biggest disadvantage is that a fast worker does not give others time to take in what is going on. I worked at the till as a volunteer in a charity shop where we sold goods at very low prices so we added up the cost of items manually.  I would add up quickly in my head and that sometimes led to problems. People would question the accuracy of my totals and I would have to total up again with the customer. I actually wasted rather than saved time because I had to total up again.

I was at a college of education before I retired. There I worked with people with different rhythms.  I worked best with people who moved fast and they were the people with whom I became good friends.  I got on most people’s nerves because I acted immediately on their suggestions.  I didn’t realize at the time, that I was not giving them time to understand where I was going. This is what happened yesterday when I again got on people’s nerves because I put pressure on them with my intensity and pace.

People who work well together share the same rhythms of performance. Differences in rhythm are not generally recognised but these differences lead to all kinds of prejudicial perceptions of people.  I am beginning to think that rhythmic difference may be the root cause of incompatibility in relationships and that rhythmic similarity, the most important element in stable relationships.

Now at this ripe old age, I realize that my rhythm makes me impatient and intolerant and I should be sensible about the way I work with people.