I’ve had the dubious privilege of traveling through several airports at the peak of massive weather developments this past month. When bad weather strikes across the country, airports are really the last place you want to be. Why? Because it’s here that any societal progress we’ve made, post Neanderthal days, is completely lost. During these times, it seems that the preferred way of communicating between passenger and gate agent is grunting.
I couldn’t help but wonder…are these airline gate agents open to the ways of emotional intelligence? And what kind of new world might be possible if we all developed more of that EI?
So, in recognition of the snowmageddon, snowpocalypse and gate agents united around the world, consider these tips to improve your relational aptitude. If you’re not a gate agent, read on. I saw several passengers revert to Neanderthal days as well.
Scenario #1: The gate agent I was working with wanted to share with me how horrible her day was in comparison to mine. She showed me no empathy, but demanded it from me.
Tip #1: Listen closely to others. Listen with your eyes, heart and ears. Observe body language, the cadence and tone of voice of others. Try to identify the emotions behind the message. Don’t judge others as you listen.
Scenario #2: The gate agent didn’t allow me to express my concern. She had no idea what my pain points where because she didn’t give me any say, but rather, kept shutting me off.
Tip #2: Allow others their moment. Don’t interrupt, dismiss their concerns, change the subject, or charge in with unsolicited advice.
Scenario #3: The gate agent talked to me for over 10 minutes and never looked me in the eyes – not once. She was completely consumed by her computer monitor.
Tip #3: Take a personal interest in people. Demonstrate genuine curiosity about their lives. Ask about family, hobbies, viewpoints, challenges and aspirations. Make an effort to get to know those people you’re interacting with beyond just the transaction.
Scenario #4: What I would have done for a simple acknowledgment, “Mr. Thompson, I hear you.”
Tip #4: Address others by name. Remember to call people by name when interacting with them.
Scenario #5: The gate agent was easily distracted and overwhelmed. And she made sure I felt it by her tone and by the 10 other conversations she had going on at the same time. I was at her complete mercy as to when our conversation would continue.
Tip #5: Be fully present when you are with others. This means that email and the phone will have to wait until the conversation is over. Also, use appropriate non-verbal signals to show that you’re making a connection to the other person. Do not check your watch, make fleeing movements, or indulge interruptions. If you truly need to end the conversation, suggest a specific time when you can resume the conversation. If you must allow an interruption, acknowledge the person you were first speaking with and resume the conversation promptly.
Scenario #6: When progress was made, I complimented the gate agent’s actions. I felt better. I’m not sure she did.
Tip#6: Recognize and give praise in an authentic way. When you pay better attention to what other people are doing, you’ll likely catch them doing something good. Let them know you noticed.
Scenario #7: I didn’t stop with just compliments, however. I wanted progress to continue. So, I gave more encouragement for what I felt were good and helpful decisions.
Tip#7: Offer encouragement to others. Use subtle signals like a head nod or more overt actions like agreeing verbally to boost confidence in others.
Scenario #8: I felt the pain of my gate agent. I don’t think she ever felt my pain of being on a surprise overnight in LA with no luggage and a late arrival to an important meeting.
Tip #8: Ask yourself what the other person might be feeling or experiencing. This is the one that I wish the gate agents could master. Empathize with the other person’s emotions, don’t project yours onto them.
I know that the logistics of managing inbound and outbound flights with frustrated passengers can be extremely difficult. I also know how chaotic airport terminals can get. But next time you find yourself in a tense situation with another person, try implementing these tips. You might find yourself moving productively to a better outcome.
*Tips were created by SVI’s own Lisa Iles – Instructional Designer☺.