Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Make a Personal Connection

I witnessed the power of making a personal connection on my flight to San Francisco. I was seated near a couple from Russia who spoke little English. This created some tension during boarding. A flight attendent became increasingly frustrated, which showed on her face and body language. Nearby passengers became increasingly tense as well.


Fortunately, another United flight attendent stepped in, and using a mix of German and pantomime, learned that the couple were Russian tourists, with a background in the Russian army. Once that connection was established, the necessary admonitions about storing bags, etc were navigated with additional miming and smiles. Nearby passengers were amused as the flight attendent asked if he could join the Russians' vacation.

The power of a personal connection is strong indeed - a key take-away I learned from my early career in hospitality. Here are some ways to make your connections a bit more personal:

• Use names. I don't mean dropping names to impress people ... I mean using the name of the person whom you are thanking or to whom you are speaking. Afraid of misprouncing the name? Ask how to pronounce it correctly.

• Be positive. Positive energy is infectious. Give a hearty smile and good morning. Give a compliment, or make a positive comment. You'll feel better and establish the basis for positive rapport.

• Ask a question to facilitate small talk. Good standbys include asking about an unusual name or item, or asking an opinion of the book they are reading. Fully listen to their answer, and determine whether they are interested in a continued conversation or not.

• Consider your body language. You say just as much (if not more) through your nonverbal cues as your chosen words. Smiles and touch, when used appropriately, can quickly establish a positive connection.

(P.S. - Composed at 30,000 feet
using BlogPress lite from my iPhone.)

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