Futility is yelling at the gate agent
This is never productive
I made the trek from east to west today and had a relatively pleasant experience on Untied Airlines. However, upon arrival in San Francisco, my post-flight e-mail and twitter check was interrupted by someone who was clearly not having the same luck and who had become completely undone by their travel situation. Apparently there was a delay in a flight leaving San Francisco significant enough to make a planned international connection in Chicago impossible. The gate agent’s explanation that “air traffic control” had caused the delay and that she would do her best to get the man on the next flights to his planned destination apparently translated to “I have control over your life today and have decided in my sole discretion to delay your vacation because I feel like it.”
Needless to say the man went ballistic and demanded to make his original flight out of Chicago. Equally needless to say, this was not going to happen. We have all been frustrated by the airlines, and it has been bad enough for Brad Feld that he has decided a month of no air travel is required to recover his sanity.
I admire Brad’s approach because it reflects an acceptance of the reality of air travel today and a clear understanding of solutions that he has control over. When confronted with frustrating situations, maintaining a clear sense of your sphere of influence and restricting your sphere of concern to the things you can control is a powerful skill. I have seen this approach work in countless negotiations and lead to highly positive outcomes in situations that started out headed for obvious disaster. To me, the most important thing is to recognize that you ALWAYS have control over your actions and to take a long-term view. Avoid arrogance and the draw of short-term gains in the form of small, emotional or financial victories and always be willing to admit that you are wrong as soon as you recognize a weakness in your position. The next verse in the Start-Up I Ching describes an approach to conflict that has worked well for me:
WHEN FACED WITH CONFLICT SEEK BALANCE. Every conflict is an opportunity for growth because conflict is only ended with mutually beneficial solutions. Make every effort to find balance when conflict arises. Your first action should be to join with others. If you cannot find support, recognize you may be wrong and that aggressive action will not lead to success but to deeper failure. You must act on your convictions but also within your means. Never negotiate on pride because you are certain to lose more than your pride is worth. Try to be strong enough to recognize when a situation is impossible and have the awareness to withdraw gracefully.