I’ve been doing a lot of business traveling over the last few weeks. In fact I’m heading out to a client site again this week. With this being a holiday week in both Canada (July 1st) and the US (July 4th), I’m sure there will be more than the usual number of travelers at the airport and on the plane.
I must admit that ticket agents, gate agents, and flight attendants rank in my top ten of daily heroes. In all the years I’ve been flying, it never ceases to amaze me that normal, usually nice people turn into bad tempered, loud mouthed twits when they travel. And it’s the airline agents and flight attendants that take it on the chin. The fact that they remain gracious and calm (for the most part) is a tribute to them as individuals and as professionals in their business.
I’m sure there have been formal studies about the “herd mentality” that takes over some travelers. I have my own theory. I think it has something to do with people rationalizing that since they will probably never see you again, they can forget the manners their Mom taught them. After all, manners are only for friends and family, right?
Last week my return flight home was delayed 4 hours. There were mechanical problems found and fixed two cities before the plane arrived where it was to carry us home. It wasn’t some nefarious plot to keep people from making their connections to other destinations or delaying their arrival home. But you never would have known that by the actions of some of the passengers. While many were patient and understanding, there were the predictable few that took it all personally and loudly groused about the terrible mistreatment they were enduring.
Reminded me of a time when the evening flight I was on was cancelled due to serious storms in the area; lightning and thunder and a torrential downpour with no relief in sight. Stuck in St. Louis, I queued up in the line to find a new flight scheduled for the morning. About 10 people ahead of me was a man in his late 20’s or early 30’s. He was screaming at the agent that he had to get out on a flight immediately. She calmly explained that all flights were cancelled and she would book him on the first available flight in the morning. He screamed louder. She explained again. This went back and forth for about 10 minutes when he suddenly screamed “you don’t understand. I have a master’s degree.” The general murmur of conversation among people in the line came to an abrupt halt. We looked at each other with wide eyes and finally one person started laughing and pretty soon we were all laughing. The guy with the master’s degree was oblivious and went storming off – I assume to get his money back from the university that bestowed the degree on him.
I believe that how you treat ticket agents and flight attendants (and waiters and cashiers at grocery stores and a whole host of other service providers) says an awful lot about who you are as a person. If you forget your manners when dealing with strangers, it makes me wonder if you remember your manners with your clients, business partners, family, and friends.
A smile and a thank you will always get better results than demands and threats. I believe that is a universal truth. Here’s hoping you have a holiday week filled with giving and receiving smiles, kind words, patience, and understanding. Today’s stranger could be tomorrow’s friend – you never know!
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