Today started out with a late shuttle driver and an early morning flight to connect to a speaking engagement in Lincoln, Nebraska. As the driver sped along with fuming passengers grumbling about being late to their planes, I tried to not get car sick and smiled at the thought of meeting some fun people and friends at the meeting. The whole experience was testing my relationship building skills to be sure.

So much depends on one’s countenance at times of stress. Admittedly, sometimes I do better than others. Today put all that to the test so that I had to marvel when someone remarked on my good mood. What caused it? I had no reason to laugh and be happy, but I was fine in the midst of chaos. I tried to review the elements of the day’s events.

When I landed at my connecting city (Detroit), there was an announcement that our plane was delayed. An hour later we discovered our flight was canceled and the only way I’d make it to my destination was after the event I was keynoting was almost over – just in time to sleep and catch another early flight to Chicago.

Before long I was on the phone with the organizers trying to figure out how to come in for the meeting via Skype while at the same time trying to make sure that my luggage would make it to the new destination – Chicago – the site of the next meeting.

In the midst of it all, everyone around me – the organizers and travel agents – all kept their senses of humor and a “can-do” attitude which helped to ease the pain of the inconvenience. It made me wonder how we can better do that for our customers and members.

I would submit we may help ease others’ discomfort during challenges in the following three ways:

1. Sympathetic listening.

Not just hearing, but truly listening to the issue as the customer or member explains, avoiding all immediate judgement. Coming from a perspective of believing the other person has value and is an intelligent individual, there should be no reason not to let him or her explain the situation and have understanding in return. Better listening would resolve 90% of the interpersonal problems people have.

2. Orientation toward finding a solution.

Take ownership of trying to solve that person’s problem if you can. If you aren’t the right person, escort him or her to the person who can help solve it. Don’t just provide a phone number and email address. Make it your priority to try to solve that problem.

3. Humor or good will.

When all else fails, a quick smile or a goofy laugh can do wonders. The kindness of strangers can do amazing things to lift the spirit when everything else is going wrong. If your customer or member seems to be having a bad day, offer them a little kindness. Even a little bit of your positive attitude goes a long way.

Finally, always learn from your challenges. As I was recounting the experience on the phone to my mentor, we reviewed all of the things I could learn from this experience, such as always fly in the day or night before an event and try to always insist on direct flights. You should never stop learning and reviewing how you can improve your situation for the future.

How will you make your client or member’s problems disappear or seem easier to handle? Do you meet challenges with a “can do” attitude?

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