Managing Conflict: Not being a push-over

I was on a quick-turn engagement in Europe; there and back to the States in three days. Completely crazy, yes. I decided to do it anyway. I could sleep on the plane. It would be fine.

Or would it?

My presentation went wonderfully. The attendees were attentive and all of the books I’d sent ahead sold so I didn’t have to figure out how to ship any home. The event planner had thoughtfully taken care of the details. There wasn’t anything about the event I could complain about. As I sat in the terminal waiting to board the flight home my only thought was, “Just let me get to my seat so I can sleep.”  

I was glad to see the people sharing my row were already settled into the window and middle seat when I boarded. I could store my things and settle in. I only had to stay awake through takeoff (a safety rule I follow – awake with my shoes on for takeoffs and landings). I sighed as I buckled my seatbelt.  

Then I watched a woman with a toddler come up the walkway, looking at the seat numbers. My heart sank as she took the seat directly behind me. Her husband sat in the aisle seat across from me. This was not good.

For the next six hours every time I started to drift off to sleep the child would kick my seat, grab the top of my seat and bounce, push my seat forward as she got up and down off of her mother’s lap and even throw food over my seat and into my lap. I tried to be patient; reminding myself that at least she wasn’t screaming. I did let the mother know I REALLY needed some sleep and asked if she could please keep her child from moving my seat. She said, “Sorry” with a half smile. Nothing changed.

I get it; traveling with small children is hard. I kept reminding myself that I was overly tired and that I had a short fuse. I just had to breathe until we got on the ground. I teach patience and self restraint. I can do this.

And I did. We were on the ground, taxiing… coming to a stop at the gate… Finally! The ding and the seatbelt sign turned off. I stood up to get my bag and wait to deplane…

Just as I start to pull my bag out of the overhead compartment I felt the full body contact of a hip and a shoulder shoving me out of the way. I turned my head to see it is the father of the child who has been kicking my seat. He is still in full contact with me and pushing. I let go of my bag and turned to face him.

I am taller than he was by four or five inches and we were standing inches apart (He had been forced to stop shoving on me when I turned my body). I put my tongue against the roof of my mouth, took a breath through my nose to calm myself and then, in an amazingly level tone (although most likely through clinched teeth), said, “I have tolerated your child kicking the back of my seat for the last six hours. I am exhausted and absolutely at my limit for my personal space being invaded. Do NOT touch me again.”

He opened his mouth to speak as his wife said something in a language I didn’t understand. He looked at her, looked back up at me and sat down in his seat. I was very happy to see that the door had been opened and people were starting to deplane. I grabbed my bag and thankfully made my escape.

I believe that it is important to understand the difference between managing conflict and avoiding it and assertively standing your ground and being aggressive.  

What do you think? Was my request that he not push me justified or should I have just moved?

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

PS - If you are interested in working with a coach, I'd be happy to have a conversation with you to discuss how I can support your success. All you have to do is ask.

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com.

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