3 Steps to Fearless Communication learned from the United Airlines Story
15 April 2017 | 6:23 pm
While the details of the removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight are still being uncovered, there are many things to learn from this unacceptable outcome.
In all likelihood there were people who could have stopped this from escalating to what it became. There were people who had the skills to move through the conflict with calm and produce an ending that would have been quite different. There were people with courage and high ethical standards, right there, watching and feeling paralyzed by fear.
The situation got this bad because too many people thought they were powerless to suggest a change of course or break some rules.
As members of organizations, families and communities what do we need to learn from this episode?
We can’t stop bad things from happening. We CAN remind the people in our lives how simple it is to communicate without fear.
We CAN increase the number of times we feel confident and powerful and connected to others. When we feel connected to others we have less fear.
These are three ways I know to stave off fear.
Kindness is KING
Treat people well. Smile and say hello. Thank people for a job well done from the people who pack your groceries to the lobby attendant who hands you a pass to enter a building. Your positive energy actually increases when you are kind to people. It sets the stage for you to feel good and for the people around you to feel good too. Communicate kindness and you will feel more connected to people and situations.
Listen to LEARN
I can’t say this enough. People want to be heard. In even the smallest conversations, if you practice listening to people to learn something – other than listening for your moment to speak – you will feel lighter when you communicate and you will learn something that will take you out of your head. You’ll routinely learn more about people and how much you have in common.
GET COMFORTABLE Being Uncomfortable
We are suffering from a lack of confidence in conflict because people avoid conflict at all costs. Conflict is not fun but if we are regularly kind and know how to listen to people (because we do it so often) then conflict doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
If something is wrong we need to be able to say it is so. Take time to go over what this means with the people in your life. If you’re a manager and/or a parent, talk about speaking up and ask if there was something you could have done better. Encourage feedback that may be uncomfortable. When you do this, you too get to practice getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
I tell my teenage sons before they head out to a party or a large gathering of their peers, “Right before something bad happens there is no neon sign saying, ‘SOMETHING BAD IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.’”
I remind them they’ve got to rely on their ability to see right from wrong. They must be able to stand up for themselves and/or remove themselves from a situation that’s escalating. Yes, I tell them I trust them even when there is a string of terror running through my body with memories of times when they got into trouble.
Fearless communication comes from within. It’s developed over time. It needs to start somewhere and be nurtured.
We are suffering from a lack of confidence in conflict. We can turn this around.
Imagine how much better this would have turned out if one or more people at United could say what they needed to say without fear.