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Is Compassion Out of Fashion?

As a seasoned traveler, I pride myself on getting through airport security like a pro — especially at DFW, my home airport. Imagine my chagrin to find TSA had installed a new inspection system and nobody called me!

Much like European airports, you approach a “station,” put your items in a bin, then push the bin to a conveyor that moves it through x-ray. If you’re lucky, your bin continues to the exit area without a hitch. FREEDOM! YAY!

If you aren’t lucky, a switch is thrown, like those on a train track, and your bag moves to the dark side, where it will be searched, and you shall be judged. NOOO!

As we all bumbled around our stations, the TSA worker kept repeating in a tired, monotone voice, “Everything in the bins…everything in the bins,” over and over and over. So what did I do? What I’ve done for years… I put my luggage up on the table (not in a bin) and proceeded to push it onto the conveyor.

Breaking Old Habits

Suddenly the TSA agent stops being monotone and speaks pointedly to me, “I SAID EVERYTHING IN THE BIN!” Now, normally I do get a little irritated (okay, really irritated) when people don’t get it, but this time it was me. What? “EVERYTHING IN THE BIN!” Yes, she did say that.

So what was my problem? Fatigue? Habit? Lack of brain cells? I meekly said, “Even the luggage?”

Yikes! This was clearly her tipping point. She lost it! She started yelling about EVERYTHING meaning luggage too and why don’t I get that luggage is included in “everything?”

Is Compassion Out of Fashion?

All she had to do was smile and say, “Yes, luggage too.” She’s have sidestepped the drama and saved me a lot of embarrassment. With inclement weather pouring down on the airport, I had a 4-hour delay to cool my heels and replay the scene, along with all the perfect things I could have said. Have you ever found yourself much smarter much later?!?

Then it hit me. Where was my compassion for her? She clearly drew the short straw and got stuck at the new checkpoint, and she probably had hours of clueless “newbies” on top of a wicked bad travel day for all. Maybe, instead of thinking about how she could have been nicer, I needed to flip it.  Rather than playing the victim, I could have moved the needle in a positive direction. Perhaps saying something like,  “Must be hard trying to break in new passengers to this system — especially when you just trained us on the old one.” I wonder how she would have responded if I’d taken this approach?

Part of the Problem? Or the Solution?

Looking ahead, chances are I’ll mess up again and get called out again. If not by her, by someone else. Will I respond differently? You bet. Bin there. Done that.

6 responses to “Is Compassion Out of Fashion?

  1. Christine, always good to read your posts. Since I came back from the Trustee Conference you spoke at I carry my red nose everyday!
    Good point to flip the script to how we can help, and in turn help each other!

    Different point of view.
    Change your mind, change your world!

  2. Super reminder that our own words and actions are often responsible for how we’re treated. Thanks, Christine!

  3. Great book by DeMarneffe called “The Rough Patch” on how you need both understanding and compassion, which means seeing the other person as a person not a role, and realizing that you both trigger each other. Look for the new book by Ed and Peter Schein called Humble Leadership that emphasizes Level 2 relationships and Personizing (yes we mean seeing the other as a whole person). Ed Schein

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