Friday, July 6, 2012

Rude Customer Service and the Power of Character

The Guy at the Ticket Kiosk
I recently traveled to the 2012 ISPI Conference in Toronto. While returning, I attempted to use the self-serve kiosk to obtain my ticket so I could board my flight. I was having difficulty with the poorly-designed kiosk - it must have been poorly designed if I was having a hard time, right? - when an airline associate approached me to help me get my ticket and move on.

I was, of course, pleased that this individual was there to help me, but there was something immediately unsettling about the way this young man interacted with me. He was the kind of person that had the uncanny ability to smile and say helpful things while at the same time indicate through his voice, eyes, and body gesture that I was a total idiot. We interacted only for about 20 seconds or so, but I left feeling very uncomfortable and having ill feelings toward the individual the airline he represented.

Duplicity in Communication
I have learned over the years that communication includes 2 major parts: (1) what we communicate on the surface through our words, and (2) the intentions, feelings and beliefs that accompany that communication. And it is very difficult to decouple that those two components. The guy at the ticket kiosk could not hide his disdain for his job and his irritation with me. His words gave one message, and his non-verbal communication gave an entirely different message. (I write more about this kind of backhanded style in my post on toxic coworkers).

To be truly great communicators, we must on some level BE what we hope to communicate. If we want to communicate concern and encouragement, we must possess in some way characteristics of love and concern for others. Who we are - what we actually believe, think, and feel about ourselves and others - is communicated to the people around us, and we must be willing to change who we are so that our communication is more aligned.

Connecting to Education
I believe that the best teachers possess 3 important characteristics: (1) a high level of expertise in the content being taught, (2) a mastery and use of effective instructional strategies, and (3) a true desire to see their students succeed and flourish. This combination yields great power to move a student toward outstanding success.
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