I parked myself away from as many non-travelers as I could. There was a weather delay, and I settled myself in for the long haul of waiting and wondering if our flight would take off.
Trying to mind my own, I had my AirPods in. Now, whether or not there is any sound or music coming of the AirPods is always a bit of a mystery with me when traveling. They are my protection from unwanted airport conversations. (I am all about human connection, but sometimes we have our limits.) At this particular moment, they were in, but nothing was coming out, because I could tell there was some drama brewing with the dude sitting across from me.
He had his laptop open, his earbuds were in, and apparently fully functional because he was interrupting, then shaking his head, then started flailing away at his keyboard. Whatever was happening on that call–he wasn’t having it.
That call ended. I maintained my smooth cover of “reading” a book on my phone and “listening” to music, but at this point, I was blatantly eavesdropping because I could tell he was fired up. The dude picked up his phone again, dialed a number, and proceeded to go off on Brian–the cause of the eyerolls and interruption and feisty body language.
“He has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s totally out of touch. He’s trying to prove himself. He hasn’t been with the project and he is completely off base. He doesn’t understand this industry. I was texting Joe during the call about how ridiculous and stupid he sounded.”
Hung up. Dialed someone else. Same rant. Three more times.
Meanwhile, I’m hitting refresh on my airline app, checking our flight status. I’m staring at the time. This guy spent at least 20 minutes calling and ranting to various colleagues, getting more and more riled up each time.
I was tempted to make eye contact, pop out my AirPods, and say, “Excuse me, sir? Would you like me to help you outline a conversation YOU CAN ACTUALLY HAVE WITH THAT PERSON? Save you some energy? Give him some pointers? Stop the telephone chain of outrage?”
But that would ruin my cover.
Witnessing those calls had me thinking–how many other people are stranded at airports, sitting in offices, out to lunch with colleagues trash-talking someone that isn’t performing up to standards, that made a bad impression, that acted in a way that’s frustrating or disappointing…instead of having a conversation with that person?
Swooping all of those people into the drama, building up anger and resentment, using up all of that energy for what?
It’s hard for someone to adjust their behavior when everyone in the office (and strangers at the airport) but the person in question knows there is an issue.
There were clearly some things that could have been discussed, some coaching that could have happened, some curiosity, and checking for understanding with the annoying guy on the other end of the line that would perhaps have made future conversations much better.
Instead, there were four people piling on and fired up spending time venting about some guy who has no idea this conversation is even happening. Pretty sure the next call would lead to the same results, now with built-up animosity and everyone looking to see the guy screw up.
Wasted time. Wasted energy. Shutting down opportunities for feedback, growth, and for change.
At that point, my flight got canceled fully and I headed home. If I had stayed, perhaps I would have given him at least one pro tip:
Talk to the person instead of talking about the person.
It’ll save you time. Save you energy. Spare those caught in the crossfire. Perhaps create some behavior change and positive impact with the person you talk to, if handled correctly.
That way he could spend his time at an airport fake listening to music and making progress on that super important project.