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Funny things happened on my way to and from the forum

September 29, 2009
by Joe Bormel
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Funny things happened on my way to and from the forum

Carefully scripted communication is often a very good thing

Even my jet travel to the recently shared

Epic Careers SEAK meeting (link) produced a useful story. The aircraft for my DC to Chicago flight was changed from a 757 to a 767. The Result? My seat was changed, and apparently downgraded from some kind of plus seat to a regular seat with less legroom. When I arrived home, I received an email apology for the downgrade from the airline, along with 500 frequent flier miles added to my account. That was a pleasant first.

Then, on the return trip, I was lucky enough to hop an earlier flight home and get an emergency exit row. However, for the first time in my career (I fly weekly, and have for about 15 years), we in those rows got a graphic lecture from the flight attendant. Apparently, we needed to know two things. First, in the event of an emergency landing, look outside before opening the emergency exit. If you see a raging inferno outside the window, do not open the emergency exit. Further, if you do see a fire, physically block any passenger who attempts to open the emergency exit. My seatmates and I we're thinking, this is an extremely unusual briefing.

Second, the flight attendant continued, it's very important to not throw the emergency exit door out the window as is sometimes suggested in safety videos on other aircraft. Oh no; this can lead to several bad events, including tripping exiting passengers who might then block egress, or puncturing the wing that, of course, is full of highly flammable jet fuel.

Fortunately, not only did we land safely, we landed early. Everyone in the emergency exit rows was thrilled to get off of that plane!

Communication is what the listener does.


paraphrasing Peter Drucker

Do listeners have rights?
1. the right words,
2. at the right time,
3. to the right people,
4. with the right emphasis and
5. the right details.

I'll close this post with an appeal that we all script our important messages and do so carefully. Starting with the right words. For example, I was scripted in medical school to conclude the physical examination of a healthy patient with "

Everything appears to be normal," and not "

Everything looks good." Depending on the nature of the patient and the exam, there can be a big difference in the interpretation of simple words.

A Quote About The Continuous Focus on Self-Improvement Business guru Jack Welch: “the monotonous, maniacal drumbeat of improvement that makes you sick until it makes you better.”

Trust is born out of communication and experience. We can improve both with attention to the details, whether or not we're frequent fliers.



Joe, I give you a lot of credit for staying in the emergency exit row after that speech! I think I would've asked for a seat change. And I agree that how a message is worded is absolutely critical. Choosing words carefully is timeless advice, and especially holds true in this multimedia environment. I hope this is not forgotten as social media and other forms of electronic communication become more popular!

The continuing saga ...

Last week, again in the exit row, I received another, new briefing on exit row skills. This time, the proper position of the window shades. I swear to you that I am not deliberately encouraging this.

"The shades need to be up during taxiing, take off, landing, and most other emergencies. That way, you can see if it's safe outside and rescuers can see inside. The only exception is a hijacking. Then, we want all of the window shades down, so that no one can see if there are interceptors outside."

[The flight attendant shared that those were a few minutes of a two hour training segment for flight crews. The passenger briefing on that training was unsolicited. And, of course, my window didn't have a shade.]

Thanks for your comment.

All things considered, it was probably safer to stay by the exit than the alternatives!

In this world of ubiquitous iPhones and Blackberries, it's all too easy to "fire off" a quick reply. Works out great if you have good relationships with the person you're emailing. Anything less and you can get into trouble real fast!