In our sister publication, Remodeling, Paul Winans explores the value of feeling heard when voicing questions or concerns.
Due to my work and our personal travel I am on airplanes a lot. Generally my experiences are not too bad. One of the reasons that is the case is that I get upgraded sometimes.
Being over 6 feet tall, the additional space a first-class seat provides makes the trip much more pleasant.
While checking in recently for a flight that was to last over four hours, I saw that two first class seats were available. I was first on the upgrade list! As time went by there was only one seat left. Then another passenger was now No. 1 with me now No. 2. Darn! So close.
Okay, not too bad, as I have an aisle seat in the main cabin, one with a bit more leg room. Maybe the middle seat next to me will end up empty. I sit during the boarding process with my fingers and legs crossed, hoping and hoping.
A small woman asks me to get up so she can get in to her seat. I thank her for not being huge, assuming she is taking the middle seat. No, she says, I have the window.
Very late in the boarding process a large man in shorts with calf muscles like tree trunks (and a body to match) comes down the aisle. He has the middle seat! ARGHH!
This being an early morning flight he soon falls asleep. To make himself more comfortable he had tilted his seat back.
The result? His arm is all but in my lap for 1-1/2 hours. A big arm. Over and over again I push it back. Honestly, I wish I could sleep as soundly as this man can. Thank God he is not snoring!
To add insult to injury, on the other side of the aisle the middle seat is empty!
Finally I ask to speak to the head flight attendant, a woman named Lauren. I am so frustrated, having gone from almost being in first class to almost having an empty seat next to me in the main cabin to having a big guy next to me in the middle seat and part of my seat.
Lauren listens. She commiserates with me. She asks me if I want to move to the empty middle seat on the other side of the aisle. No, I say, I prefer the aisle. She looks for other options. There are none.
The main thing she did was made me feel heard.
Eventually my seatmate woke up and behaved more responsibly. He kept his arm off me.
I thanked Lauren when I was leaving the plane for listening to me.
Your clients have expectations that you are not always aware of, much like me hoping to be upgraded to first class. Often you, your employees, trade contractors, or vendors do something that upsets a client.
What should you do? Listen. Be empathetic. Make sure they feel heard.
An immediate solution is not always what they are after. They simply want to stop feeling like they are abandoned with no one understanding their frustration.
It takes very little time to listen. By carefully paying attention to your client’s concerns you give them a positive story (like I am telling you about Lauren) about you and your company to tell their friends.
I bet their friends will listen to the story.