Does it seem to you like more and more folks are a little frazzled — frayed nerves, short on patience with easily triggered emotions? No wonder with heightened terror alerts – we do want to be more vigilant. A recent incident with an airport ticket agent reminded me that we also need to be more patient with one another and with ourselves.
My friend was dropping me off at the airport just as I was learning from my airline app that my flight to Chicago had been cancelled. There was no explanation at the time, though I found out later it was the airline’s attempt to avoid an anticipated storm. (Isn’t that ironic, in their attempt to avoid a weather storm, they created a slew of emotional storms in their passengers). The airline automatically rebooked me through Houston. This flight was now three hours delayed. I had just completed a daylong training session the day before and was scheduled to be in Philadelphia for another client engagement by 4 pm that day.
I was getting anxious inside. My friend had given me an encouraging word as I exited the car, “your footsteps are ordered by the Lord!” Those words continued to echo in my mind as I navigated through a complex and confusing maze of options with the ticket agent, none of which would get me to Philadelphia in time for my next client engagement.
Did I mention that this cancellation occurred the Thursday before a major holiday? So flights were booked and the agent must have handled a few other customers affected by this cancellation, because she seemed a little impatient, perhaps rattled, and definitely short on options. I prayed quietly within trying to keep in check the rumble of emotions vying to surface. Finally, I asked the woman to just get creative and figure out a way to get me to Philly. Since it was a holiday weekend there were just limited seats available. She finally looked at me and said a competing airline had a direct flight in about 60 minutes. I looked puzzled, recalling that just a few moments earlier she had told me all the seats for the next few flights were booked. I must admit my encounter with this agent was exhausting — and it was only 6:30 in the morning! So to be perfectly clear, I asked, “you’re sure, they still have seats?” “Yes,” she replied, “they are showing seats.” She gave me the protocol for not losing my return from Philly to Chicago on Friday on my preferred airline and sent me on my way. I thanked her. It was going to be tight but I was determined to get on that flight.
As I walked toward the new ticket counter, my frustration increased and anxiety heightened. I heard the cries of a baby a little ways in front of me. As I passed her stroller, I glanced down and saw a woman I presumed to be the baby’s mother checking on her. I mused to myself, “little one, I sure understand! I feel like crying right about now too but I would look silly as a grown woman crying up in this airport over a missed connection.” Of course we all know, the mounting pressure I was feeling was about more than just a missed connection. It was about keeping a commitment to my client.
I started praying and confessing what my friend had already spoken over me. My footsteps are ordered by the Lord. I began to give thanks. I also began to affirm “I will not be driven by frazzled emotions.” In my head I determined also to journal and express these jumble of emotions once I settled into my hotel room later. Here’s what I then heard inside:
It is ok to feel the emotions of frustration and anxiety, but it is not ok to dump those emotions on someone else.
As frustrating as the encounter was with the first ticket agent, it would not have been ok for me to dump my frustrations on her. Not only would it have served no purpose nor gotten me to Philly any faster, it would have set off an emotional chain reaction in both of us and set the course of our days in totally different directions. And it was way too early for that. I’m sure she was going to get a lot more irate reactions if my preferred airline continued to cancel flights.
If you’re like most people, your emotions can be easily triggered during highly stressful, deadline/time-constrained conditions. But the next time you find your emotions rising during a stressful situation that could cause you to have an emotional explosion, STOP. Don’t ignore the emotions. They are valid. But don’t let the emotions drive you or distract you from the real goal of the moment.
[tweetthis]Don’t let your emotions drive you or distract you from the real goal of the moment.[/tweetthis]
Don’t let your frazzled emotions leak out onto some one else and by all means don’t dump them on others. Give vent to them later through journaling, praying or talking with a confidante.
As I sat in my exit row seat on my way to Philly, and began to write this blog, I remembered this message I want to share with you, “it’s ok to feel your emotions, no matter how frustrating. It’s not ok to dump your emotions on someone else, no matter how frustrating.”
[tweetthis]”It’s not ok to dump your emotions on someone else, no matter how frustrating.”[/tweetthis]
Next time you are ready to dump your emotions on someone else use STOP to, well, stop yourself.
Slow down. Leaders respond thoughtfully and wisely, you can’t just react to every person that says something wrong to you. Take a deep breath. Slow down your emotional reflexes. [tweetthis]Reacting is not the same as responding.[/tweetthis]
Think. You have the cognitive capacity to think rationally about the situation and not cause your feelings to over-rule your reflective mind or to totally rule your responses. Engage your thinking by asking clarifying questions. Make sure you listen. Keep your goal in mind.
Operate respectfully. Address the person professionally staying focused on the issue. No matter how frustrating the person is, you still control your responses. Yes, it takes discipline in the moment but in the long run, it’s worth it for your peace. Sometimes the best way to show respect for a person who is triggering your emotions is to walk away.
Provide feedback after you’ve calmed down and processed the event and your emotions. Most customer service functions ask for feedback after a customer interaction. Take the time to give insight on the parts of the process that were most frustrating or just didn’t work for you.
We each have enough macro-stressors in our world today. Let’s try to make the everyday encounters less stressful for ourselves and each other.
© 2016 Dr Jeanne