Tuesday April 12, 2016
When you've been waiting at an airport all night, you've had zero hours of sleep, and your flight is leaving in just a few hours, the last thing you want to hear is "Your flight has been cancelled".
"Because you booked it through a travel agent, we can't change the flight without talking to them" is also a less than wonderful way to start the day.
And "the travel agent doesn't open until 9:00 in the morning" has a way of inducing a certain amount of panic, especially when your flight leaves at 6:00.
A couple years ago, I had that experience while travelling to a business training event.
Today, I'd like to share four principles I used to resolve the problem - three things I did right, and one that I did wrong - so you can use my successes and mistake to solve YOUR next crisis with ease, grace and effectiveness.
Here are the four principles:
1. Accept the present situation, and work with it
If you focus on how your current circumstances "should" be different from what they are, you're wasting your mental energy fighting something you can't change, instead of fixing the things you CAN change.
Your current situation, in this instant, is the product of all the actions and decisions that came before it. It's what you have to work with right now.
But your situation an hour from now, a minute from now, or even a few seconds from now, is the product of what you choose to do in this moment.
So instead of railing against what's already been created, focus on what you want to create next. Don't spend your mental and emotional energy fighting the past; instead, focus on what you can do right now to shape the future.
2. Take whatever steps you currently can
With the re-booking of my flights dependent on my travel agent, and the agent's office closed, I couldn't completely resolve the problem immediately or on my own.
Sometimes, you may also encounter situations that you can't completely resolve right away. At those times, just take whatever steps you can, with the knowledge, abilities and resources that you currently have at your disposal.
In this instance, I left a message at the agent's office, and made arrangements for the airport's customer service to contact me as soon as they had any news.
Then, I used the extra wait time to get some work done, so I could use the time productively instead of waiting and worrying.
3. Don't complain or cast blame until you have all the facts
This is the one I got wrong. In the six hours I spent waiting for the travel agent's office to open, I got into a few conversations, some of which included me complaining about the agency I'd used.
I was later informed that the error that cancelled my flight had occurred on the airport's end, and the agency I was complaining about may not have been to blame.
Admittedly, I couldn't prove definitively who had actually caused the mix-up. But it did serve as a warning to me, not to cast blame before I had all the facts.
4. Don't take it out on anyone
During this situation, there was one thing I did that surprised the airport staff - or, more accurately, one thing I DIDN'T do.
I didn't take it out on them.
While I did have a moment of shock and alarm when I found out that my flight had been cancelled, I didn't yell, use threats or insults, make demands, or otherwise take out my stress on people who weren't responsible for the problem or in a position to solve it.
I remained friendly and pleasant, which the customer service staff appreciated. And that made the whole experience much easier for everyone involved.
Do you have any tips for graceful and effective problem handling?
If you do, please share them with your fellow readers in the comments.