So I'm flying to Washington last Thursday and the flight is delayed by 30 minutes. No big deal.
Reason being touted: "A technical issue that the maintenance crew is working on."
I board the plane, and the flight attendant takes to the mic to apologize for the delay.
"There was a problem and the maintenance staff had to change...something" was her cloudy explanation.
Not long after, the Pilot comes on the P.A. for a repeat mea culpa.
"There was a problem with a...uh...uh...one of our systems," he explained. "We changed something in a system."
What started out as the most benign of problems was now brewing up a paranoid witches brew in my head. What system were they talking about?
- The rudders?
- The oxygen?
- The auto-pilot?
- The fuel indicators?
- The toilet flush?
Rationally, I knew it couldn't be overly drastic, or we wouldn't have taken off. Uh...I think.
But irrationally, well...I'm sure my head wasn't the only domain of doubt on the plane. I couldn't help but ponder:
What was the benefit of being vague?
Why let minds wander over a bumpy minefield?
Where was the win in not telling us exactly what was wrong?
I'm sure that whatever was indeed wrong was way less dangerous than what anyone was thinking. Especialy me.
So the lesson of the week is that, with all due respect to Jack Nicholson's famous rant in "A Few Good Men," we CAN handle the truth.
Getting-to-the-point clarity saves time, answers questions and calms fears.
Ambiguity wastes time, generates questions and stirs up the dark unknown.
And this isn't just on in-flight announcements. This works in every form of inter-personal relationships, from colleague-to-colleague, from parent-to-child, from spouse-to-spouse.
Be clear, say what is...and deal with the consequences now.
Smoke-and-mirror it...and deal with even more consequences for a long, long time to come.
(P.S. I am writing this at the airport waiting for my flight back home. I just heard an announcement for the delay of a Jet Blue flight to Boston. The reason? "Weather." Oh, that explains it...)