Leaving a small plane, passengers crowd into the narrow jetway, waiting for the bags that were checked at the gate to be returned to them. They press themselves against the walls, making a corridor for the people who don’t need to wait for their luggage.
An airport employee, calling down the jetway, says, “Stand to one side, please, until everyone is off the plane.” The passengers look at each other—everyone is standing to one side, no one is crowding the middle of the corridor. She bustles down the path, gesturing, “Thank you to those of you who followed instructions. Everyone on this side, please move over.” With muttering and rolled eyes, those on the left side, where she has waved her hand, move over to join the group on the right, the people who “followed instructions.”
It was clear what she wanted, but only after she explained. She wanted all the waiting passengers to line up on a single side of the jetway—but that’s not what she said. As far as they could tell, they were complying with the instructions to “stand to one side.”
What seems completely clear in our own minds isn’t necessarily clear to those who are listening. What can we learn from our own assumptions, so we can connect and communicate more clearly?