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Flying Forward: A Move to the Front Story

2 Aug. 2017 Posted by aadams

Ralph Metzner, FEI Director of Product Management

Earlier this year, during a layover in Orlando, I learned that my flight to Atlanta had been cancelled due to weather. Fortunately, I was able to book a new flight, but it meant an additional five hours in the Orlando International Airport.

As I rode out the delay, I observed plenty examples of frustration and frayed nerves. One conversation in particular stood out, though, between a passenger and a gate attendant. Like most of us, the passenger was dealing with disrupted travel arrangements. They also happened to be in a wheelchair with a cast on one foot.

The gate attendant tried to explain the complexities of weather-related delays, cancelled flights and baggage transfers. The passenger was trying to explain the complexities of luggage, clothing, toiletries and missed business meetings.

Objectively speaking, the content of the conversation wasn’t difficult. In this case, however, I was seeing the cumulative effects of a great deal of stress on the part of the passenger and the gate attendant. The gate attendant had been dealing with inconvenienced, frustrated and often angry passengers all afternoon. The passenger, on top of dealing with the difficulty of navigating a major airport in a wheelchair, was facing disrupted plans and potentially jeopardized
business dealings.

What should’ve been a simple discussion was complicated not only by the circumstance of travel delays, but also by the impact of stress. While the attendant behaved professionally and the passenger remained civil, it was apparent they were having trouble communicating.

Our understanding of stress and trauma can shed some light on such trouble. As stress builds up and our brains retreat from their higher functions to "fight or flight" mode, trouble communicating has as much to do with our ability to communicate as it does with our willingness to communicate or our intent to remain civil and professional.

When we face challenging or disruptive circumstances, whether while traveling or at work or home, it is important we remember the affect stress may be having on our behaviors and thoughts during the situation at hand. When we most need to solve problems, often the mechanisms we need to solve those problems are least available to us.

What’s the alternative? At FEI, we’ve been developing Move to the Front, a series of tools that emphasize the ever-evolving field of neuroscience’s place in our lives as we understand our stressors, develop personal resilience and pursue our best selves.

Stress is what we allow it to be. How we deal with stressful challenges is at the core of not only communication, but of building resilience

Interested in knowing more? Leave a comment below or contact us for information.

Oh, and yes—I did make it to Atlanta.

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