Whether we are discussing how school leaders talk with teachers about their latest observation or how customer service representatives handle concerns, how we say what we say matters.
I learn and re-learn this lesson all the time. Why does it matter in the first place? As we all know, reputations are often made on the first impression. Right or wrong, if someone has a bad experience with a night's stay in a hotel, they will often generalize and write off the entire hotel chain ("Don't ever stay at Hotel Hell---I had a horrible experience there"). So, it is incredibly important that we say things in such a way that people will hear what we have to say in a palatable way.
Maybe I am just still reeling from my latest experience, but I am convinced it matters even more with weary travelers. Case in point: I was attempting to get back from Seattle to Tucson, in the midst of the wind/rain/fog from Hades this past Friday. While the airline couldn't guarantee I could get on an earlier flight that would get me back to Tucson by early afternoon, frequent travel has its rare benefits and I was placed at the very top of the Standby list of a completely full flight to San Francisco. My heart raced as I waited with patience (ha! not a chance) to hear my name called. Finally, I heard "Mary Shelly Arneson, please see me at the podium for your seat assignment". I almost cheered! The gate agent handed me my ticket and I asked if it would be inappropriate to kiss her. She laughed and said, "I'm so happy I could make your day." Ah, but I was only lulled into a false sense of security.
As soon as we landed in San Francisco, I had a text message saying, "Your 10:48 a.m. flight to Tucson has been cancelled due to maintenance." Not great. It went on to say I would now be flying to Denver then to Tucson, but----good news!--- you will get in by midnight tonight. Oh no you didn't just say that, I thought.
Once I had all but tackled a Customer Service representative, I asked about my options. She was able to get me on a flight through Phoenix to Tucson that would arrive by 5:00 p.m. (still traveling all the live-long day but not until midnight). I had to push for those flights because it meant putting me on another carrier, "which I'm really not supposed to do, because of the weather", she told me. "Hmmm...but my cancelled flight was because of maintenance, so I'm sure it's great that you are doing this for one of your frequent flyers" I quipped with a smile. "Well, not really" she retorted. Silence from me, because I know when to be quiet....sometimes. But....she looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'll try to re-route your luggage but good luck getting it when you arrive". Oh no you didn't just say that. Good luck getting my luggage? That is not great.
Well, the good news is she was honest. True to her word, my luggage did not arrive with my physical body, but I was so grateful to be getting back home in time to go pick up a new foster Lab, I didn't complain. I had read I could report the missing bag online or on the phone once I got home. In fact the wording online says:
delayed baggage should be reported to the airport Baggage Service Office immediately after the arrival of your flight, or by calling our Baggage Service Center...,and went on to give the phone number. So, imagine my surprise when I called the number and the rep said, "No, no, no, you have to report the bag missing when you arrive at the airport."
Here's what I said, "No, no, no, it says differently on the website", while Dave looked at me and shook his head (I hate that voice of reason sometimes).
He said, "I don't know what it says online but you can't report it to me over the phone." "Ummm...I know what it says online --- I just read it to you" I replied, which prompted another head shake from Dave.
"Let me try again", I breathed. "Clearly I didn't report it missing or delayed at the airport. What do we do to get my bag reported missing now? I really appreciate you helping me out." Every piece of me wanted to scream---"READ YOUR WEBSITE!!" but we all know you can catch more flies with honey. Well, finally, this fly agreed to go catch my bag for me and I finally got it delivered about 24 hours later. !!!
Lesson learned: It really does matter how we say what we need to say, and the other subtle lesson I learned (but might have to learn a few more times in my lifetime): listen to your logical, fair and wise husband.
Just for today, perhaps we can remember to word things in such a way that other folks around us will find it easier to listen to us and want to help us.