Our Response Matters: How do You Communicate Personally & Professionally?
Blog post by Barton Career Advisors Founder and Managing Partner Chris Barton
The trials and tribulations of traveling by air are well known to many. I travel regularly for business and I am always anxious to get home to my family in Florida on the weekends. I get to spend a fair amount of time in airports and on airplanes. This invariably means that I get to be in proximity to all kinds of people and their many different attitudes. I like to watch people communicating and dealing with their fellow humans. My fascination with behavior, attitudes, and motives is only eclipsed by my love of gracious displays of kindness, tolerance, acceptance, and assistance. On a recent flight I observed people entering the plane and paid attention to some of the same faces while we were in flight. I noticed the brilliant smile of our female flight attendant, the crisp clothes of a friendly looking golfer-type dude, the intense focus of a ginger haired lady with her Amazon reader, and the tiredness of a gentleman across the aisle from me with a cup of soda.
It was relatively quiet on the plane for a Friday evening. You’d think that everyone would be having a cocktail to celebrate the end to a hectic week but more people seemed to be content with a little snooze or some music on their iPhones. The friendly golfer and the tired gent just happened to be sitting right near me. The tired, disheveled man had messy hair and really looked exhausted. He was slowly sipping his soda and closing his eyes lightly with each sip as if his inner monologue might be, “What a week. I am so tired and I can’t wait to get home.” It just so happened that friendly golfer was right behind tired guy in his aisle seat. The fatigued gentleman took the next slow sip of his soda. What happened next was like watching ESPN instant slow motion replay. The almost empty cup was sliding from his hand. Frame by frame I watched as the cup, several ice cubes and maybe a tablespoon of caramel-hue soda hit the golfer’s shiny, expensive looking right loafer. Friendly drained from the face of my Caddyshack-loving plane mate. He looked up and jerked the seat of tired guy and said, “Geezus! You just spilled your drink on my foot! Watch what you are doing jerk!” The golfer adjusted his visor up and down a couple of times and shifted in his seat as if to display his utter disgust with this clearly negligent behavior.
Relaxation and relief left my exhausted companion’s face and his countenance changed to consternation with a touch of sadness. I looked at this scene occurring just feet from my seat and my mind went into hyper-alert mode reflecting on the interaction and its importance in the life class we all are attending in human behavior. Was that response really necessary? What did the golfer accomplish? It certainly was not like he was putting to win the US Open. I was just so confounded by the vitriolic approach of this seemingly sharp, friendly man. His response was chosen and thus the way he made a tired, struggling person feel. We must choose our response. Whether it is disappointment over that lost career opportunity or a wet shoe, we can build a kinder more supportive world by being gracious to one another. Brighten a day and your profession by choosing to respond in way that lifts up those around you. Those investments will matter for your career and your life in the long run.