I’m feeling slightly proud of myself today.  I consciously used the word “IF” to transform what could have been 10 hours of purgatory into something much more acceptable.

It happened on my flight from London to San Francisco.  I booked my economy seat  months ago and did my usual thing of  reserving a decent aisle seat with full legroom (28D on a 747, in case you’re interested.  There is no galley or toilet behind the bulkhead, and the next section is Business Class, so it is also comparatively peaceful and free of traffic.)

When I got to my seat there was a stressed looking young chap pulling things out of a rucksack, the contents of which were all over my seat.  It turned out he and his newly wed wife and 2 year old daughter were also travelling. When he realised it was my seat he immediately launched into what must have been a pre-rehearsed request, which went something like this:

“As you can see, we have a young child, and are travelling together.  However British Airways have separated us, and I am in the middle seat of the row behind.  Would you mind swapping so we can sit together?”

Oh dear.  He is making the fact that he did not check in early enough to sit together into my problem, and asking me to forfeit my carefully planned seat for what was in effect one of the worst on the flight, so that he could sit with his wife and help manage the child.  The helpful and empathetic man in me wanted to say yes, but my logical brain was telling me I didn’t want to and there was no reason why their problem should become mine.  I decided to practice what I have preached in other Blogs and use the word “IF” in order to extract a concession in return and collaborate with them.

“I’m not going to give up my seat for that one, because as you can see it has lots of legroom and I chose it months ago for that reason.  However, IF you can persuade BA to find me an alternative seat with equal legroom, I’d be happy to assist you.”

He’s eating a BANANA, which is another great negotiation tool

The monkey which he has tried to put on my shoulder is now squarely back on his.  He has to do the legwork, and meanwhile I can take my seat and wait for things to pan out.

10 minutes into the flight the Cabin Services Director came and offered me a seat in Premium Economy with even more legroom, which I gladly accepted.  Smiles and thank you’s from all involved, and I ended up with a peaceful flight and not having a 2 year old climbing up and down my leg for 10 hours.

It takes Accommodators like me who prefer to give others’ needs more priority than mine a lot of energy and what feels like ice cold determination to stick with logic and principle in these situations, but every time I do it seems to pay off.  It makes me wonder why it’s taken me so long to work this out, and why it doesn’t yet come instinctively.  Maybe it will eventually, but meanwhile I just have to remember to do a Strategic Pause and remind myself not to go with my instinct.

Photo © Stuart Corlett – Fotolia.com