It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. Lena Horne
Two New Zealand airlines sent me ping-ponging between their service counters at the Auckland airport in the hour before my flight to Sydney, Australia. Their representatives were searching for an electronic reservation I’d booked two weeks earlier. The poor communications between these two carriers – one listed the flight, the other operated it – led to an “It’s-not-our-problem” approach to customer service. I was getting nowhere. And my increasing frustration and anger didn’t help.
They were wrong. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that beyond the bureaucracy and computer glitches were humans who had the power to complicate my life. So, I laid down my battle gear.
With the clock ticking toward take-off, my instincts told me to focus on making a human connection with just one of the two agents. Even if the agent believed her airline was right and the other one wrong, I hoped her desire to help a distressed traveler would triumph over the need to blame.
I replaced the righteous, accusatory edge in my voice with a vulnerable tone. I softened my facial expression and breathed my shoulders away from my ears. Then I retold the story of how I purchased my tickets, this time with more detail in the hope it might offer problem-solving clues.
Also, I made sure the agent knew I had been on a bankrupted cruise that had dumped me in Tahiti.
Finally, I pleaded. “I understand that you can’t guarantee that I’ll make this flight, but I’ve checked out of my hotel and I have no place to stay. I’ll be grateful for anything you can do.” This was not manipulation. This was the truth.
My new approach caused a Herculean shift in the attitude of the ticketing agent whose fingers flew across her keyboard, so hell bent was she to get me on that plane.
Had anger remained my tactic, the gates to the Sydney flight likely would have remained closed to me. Even if they hadn’t, the consuming nature of anger would have had me snorting all the way to Australia. Instead, with minutes to spare, I finally moved through security, boarding pass in hand.
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We often mistake letting go for giving up. Knowing the difference between the two can make all the difference in the end.