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Using Travel Time to Develop Understanding of Ourselves and Others

During a recent spate of international travel, I found myself standing in the midst of London’s Waterloo Station. The summer rush was on and people were busy scurrying to and from the trains in small groups and solo. 
 
I was sipping a coffee and trying to plan a short weekend trip to Portsmouth when I caught myself beginning to react to people as they went about the station. “He looks hassled”; “she seems friendly”, “what a happy group that is”. Suddenly, I realized I had been making judgments and assigning traits to people I didn’t even know. Having just facilitated a SOCIAL STYLE course where we discussed how important it is to be objective in observing others, I decided I would turn my inappropriate reactions around and use the time to enhance my skills at observing others.

I began to focus on what I was actually seeing people saying and doing. Settling into a comfortable spot, I began to work on my observation skills. “This person was walking fast, facially controlled, and talking at a rapid pace on his cell phone.” “This person was talking with their companion with lots of facial animation and broad hand gestures.” “Another person was listening intently to their companion while leaning forward and smiling”.  

As I worked on being more objective I found myself avoiding judgments and traits and started to strategize what this person’s “Say and Do” behaviors where telling me about how I should approach them if I want to interact successfully with them. I eventually challenged myself to approach a person who was demonstrating More Asking and Emoting Behaviors with someone they had just seen off on a train to Oxford to see if they could provide me with any insights into things to see in Portsmouth. My strategy was to try a casual and warm approach and to explain that I was visiting the UK and was hoping to find out if a visit to Portsmouth would be a pleasant experience.  

Given my own Driving Style, I knew I would have to be more facially animated and speak in a softer tone and at a slower pace if I was going to relate to this person most effectively. I also knew that I should be more disclosing about myself and my hopes for an enjoyable sightseeing experience. So off I went and approached this stranger to see if I had been correct in my assessments. The good news was I was right this person was an Amiable and was more than happy to share their experiences at Portsmouth with me. It even turned out that they had recently skied in Vail, Colorado and really enjoyed my home state and wanted me to tell them about other ski areas as they were hoping to return next year. 

The overall result of my few minutes of skill practice was a most enjoyable fifteen minute conversation with Stuart that helped me plan my trip to Portsmouth and my visits to the Royal Navy Museum and the D-Day Museum as well as a great lunch on the Quay overlooking the harbor. This little experience in turning travel time into skill building opportunities was a good lesson for me on how to make what is so often the hassle of travel into a much more productive and enjoyable experience. Give it a try the next time you are at the airport or the train station and work on enhancing your skills at observing others and how you react to their behavior. It will help build your tolerance for behavior that is different than yours and help you work on ways to interact successfully with others.

John R. Myers is the president and CEO of The TRACOM Group

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