I’m sitting on an airplane, my first in 18 months, and we are an hour past departure time, and we are back at the gate with a maintenance issue.
I was excited to get on an airplane again. I usually fly a few days a week, and flying is part of my identity really. I joke that the staff at Air Canada recognizes me when I board (the truth is that many times they do). My spirits and confidence were high. Everyone was following protocols, and everyone seemed happy.
We sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes before announcing that we were returning to the gate to get the maintenance issue looked at.
And then the moaning began.
The happy travelers (most of them were clearly traveling for fun and not business) instantly turned negative. They started accusing Air Canada of doing this on purpose (which makes zero logical sense). They reminisced about previously missed connections. The group surrounding me jumped right into stinkin’ thinkin’.
Do you jump to stinkin’ thinkin’ and travel down the path of negativity?
It made my skin crawl. I hate that kind of thinking. I find that people don’t think logically when they move to reactions. They want to find blame and fault. They immediately jump to worst-case scenarios and refuse even to entertain things might just be fine.
I did initially react too. As we were waiting to take off (before being sent back to the gate), I remembered that I really disliked the “hurry up and wait” feeling I get when I travel.
I also have trained myself to quickly recognize when I’m going down the path of negativity due to reactions and quickly turn it around to a response.
Reactions happen automatically. They may be negative initially as you look at the potential consequences that you could face.
Responses are a choice. I choose not to focus on the negativity and instead take charge of the situation as much as it allows me to. I change my perspective to be realistic and slightly optimistic instead of negative. I don’t want to go down the path of thinking things always happen to me or that companies are deliberately trying to ruin my day (we know they really aren’t, and Air Canada does not benefit from having flight issues.) My choice is to control the situation as much as possible and not get into the blame or fault game.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”4Jsx0″ via=”yes” ]Reactions happen automatically. Responses are a choice.[/ctt]
As the negativity started passing around the cabin, I checked my connection time and realized that I had lots of time. I also thought about what would happen if I missed my connection and my options (there are always options. They may not be great, but there are always options). My keynote is in the morning, but if I cannot get to Chicago overnight (it is too far to drive), they could probably put another speaker earlier, and I can deliver my keynote when I get there. I will absolutely make it tomorrow (but very likely tonight). I didn’t focus on the “what ifs…” that cause thinking to be negative.
The trick is to recognize the difference between your initial reaction and your chosen response.
When you see that reaction, quickly change gears, and choose the response you want instead. This doesn’t mean you are unrealistic or have your head in the clouds; it means you control how you handle situations. You are choosing to be rational and not irrational.
The person in front of you is driving too slow? Don’t yell and curse (reaction), but instead take a deep breath and think about why they are driving slow and why you are in so much of a rush (response).
Your executive wants you to take minutes at a meeting after hours? Don’t assume they are trying to get you to work for free and not offering overtime or time off in lieu (reaction), but instead prepare to ask for some type of compensation or choose to give your time willingly, knowing that it will eventually work out to be fair (response).
Your co-worker books Christmas vacation again, meaning that yet again, you can’t get vacation time over the holidays? Don’t react and assume they are doing it on purpose just so you don’t get a vacation, but instead prepare an uncomfortable conversation about sharing the time from year to year or focus on the fact that you get a week off in the summer each year that doesn’t conflict with their requests.
It won’t always be easy to do, but it will always leave you feeling better about the situation.
I’m still at the gate waiting to find out if we are cleared for take-off in the near future. I’m not panicking; I’m not getting down in the dumps of stinkin’ thinkin’ but instead focused on my response and not my reaction.