By Ed Maier, Former Andersen Partner
Have you ever lost yours? I had an experience over the holidays with an airline that reminded me how easy it is to lose this; and how difficult it is to find it.
I won’t bother you with the details, but since this is my first article of the year, and some of us are into “resolving to do better” in certain areas, I would like to share a few thoughts with you about it.
Dictionary.com defines patience as:
- the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
- an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.
- quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.
As I think about my incident with the airline, and my behavior during phases of that incident, I am reminded of my own bywords at the top of this article. I know many of you have heard me use them before and you, as alums, have used them yourself. Think straight, talk straight.
So how could I have used the meaning of these words to better handle my situation with the airline? Here are my observations on how I could have used the guidance from these words, rather than how I reacted emotionally.
Gather and understand the facts. When faced with the information the airline provided me, instead of becoming frustrated over concerns about what their action was doing to our schedule, I should have simply followed their instructions to use their website to help me reschedule our flight. Since others in the same predicament were faced with the same challenges, I now realize I lost precious time and probably limited my alternatives by letting my frustration keep me from dealing with the issue immediately and rescheduling to one of the flights they offered.
Understand the context. I didn’t really care what the context was related to the flights’ discontinuance and cancellation. I wasted time expressing my frustration with the airline rather than just thinking through the problem and using the resources available to me to solve it.
Avoid noise and fluff. There is always a great deal of “noise” in the system, but the noise in this circumstance was created by my own mind thinking all of the negative things that could happen to us because of this “catastrophe”. Since a nonstop alternative was not available and we had to switch planes at the first stop, would we make the connection? If we didn’t make the connection, where would we stay overnight? Would the airline help us with this? Instead of trying to eliminate the “noise” in my head, I just should have followed the facts. I should have let them come at me one at a time and deal with each appropriately instead of creating my own personal flight doomsday scenarios. Why couldn’t I simply throw out the hyperbole. One of the things I try to remind myself of is to only listen to the sources I trust. I have been flying with this particular airline for the majority of my fifty years in business. Their facts, though on occasion frustrating, are always accurate. Why didn’t I just take comfort in that and reduce the level of noise coming at me?
Keep it simple. In retrospect, the information the airline provided me to solve my problem was straightforward and accurate. All I had to do was follow it. Instead, I let my emotions run ahead of my brain and increase my frustration level.
Once I assembled, analyzed and concluded about the information presented to me, I could have done a better job of talking straight.
Understand Your Audience. I violated this in spades because I virtually ignored the audience I was speaking to – particularly a gate agent who frustrated me. I should have never raised my vocal volume when speaking to him. For that behavior, I apologize.
Tell it like it is. I finally got something right. Our first flight on the replacement journey (as created by the prior day’s cancelled flight) was late; so we missed our connection. This led to my previously-mentioned poor interaction with the gate agent. But then I met a service agent who turned my entire experience around by following my own simple guidance of this principle. She:
- Kept it simple. She explained the airline’s solution to our missed flight briefly and concisely. She quickly described our options and gave us the best alternative. She even volunteered how our luggage would be handled. She was brief and to the point, and very courteous. She kept us moving along to our next flight in an extremely efficient manner.
- Asked if I understood. After she made our options very clear to us, she asked if we understood them. She handled our questions in a thoughtful and professional manner.
- Considered our perspective. She empathized with us, anticipated our concerns and responded as best as she could in the situation.
- Showed courtesy, respect and appreciation. Throughout our conversation she was thoughtful and understanding of our situation. She showed respect for us as customers and treated us fairly in the circumstances. She displayed great patience with me and my frustrations. Afterward I realized how much she exemplified how I should have behaved throughout the entire cancellation-rebooking-missed connection incident. She treated both of us with respect and professionalism.
- Managed emotions. She was calm and peaceful throughout our conversation which helped me dial my own emotions down.
As we boarded the plane for our destination and settled down in our seats, I began thinking about the events and the way I handled them. Indeed, I violated some of my own principles by the way I thought and communicated “in the heat of the moment”. In retrospect, I remember something I learned from reading Stephen Covey. He said that you should not just immediately react when things happen. Slow down your thinking. Plan your action. Then act. If you apply this line of thinking to events that happen to you before you react to them, you can better control the emotions caused by that event and, generally, take better action.
Unfortunately, I did not follow my own beliefs in this situation. I know I could have done better. I also know that this will not be the last event in my life which frustrates or angers me. I just hope the next time, I remember to think straight and talk straight a little better.
If you have any comments, I welcome that you write me at firstname.lastname@example.org And, as always, I will remind that if you like what I write, you can read more. Go to www.amazon.com and pick up my book – Think Straight. Talk Straight. Thank you!