How to Reengage the Disengaged

by  Sonia Di Maulo  |  Leadership Development

The Emergency Row Announcement

I found my seat in row 16. I was right in front of the emergency row. I could hear the flight attendant introducing herself to the six passengers seated in row 17. She explained that they must have chosen the emergency seats on purpose and were prepared to hear her emergency exit announcement.

Then I returned to my reading until I heard her say, “Sir it seems as if you are more interested in your phone than in what I have to say.” In his defense, he said that he had heard the announcement hundreds of time before.

The attendant walked away and minutes later another attendant appeared and tells the man, “We are asking you to be respectful and to listen when we speak,” and she walked away.

The Analysis

As I sat there, I reflected on the events that had just transpired. This man has now been shunned in front of at least 30 passengers. I may have at one time or another been guilty of not listening to a general announcement myself… Would I like to be shunned in front of passengers and the cabin crew? Definitely not. Was the man acting maliciously? Probably not.

The Redo: How to Get it Right

I like the redo technique. It allows me to revisit events to see how they might have turned out if people behaved differently. Here goes…

I found my seat in row 16. I was right in front of the emergency row. I could hear the flight attendant introducing herself enthusiastically to all the passengers seated in row 17. Her voice and eye contact gained their attention immediately. She politely and respectfully asked all six passengers for their full attention for the next 1 minute to hear her important life and death instructions, even though they may have heard them hundreds of times before. She guaranteed them that her delivery would indeed be unique! The six passengers, as well as the neighboring passengers were drawn in with her energy and enthusiasm. They could not help but listen and watch. After her short announcement, she thanked them for their attention and made eye contact with each passenger as she wished them an enjoyable flight.

Why was he disengaged?

That passenger was disengaged, but so was the flight attendant. She assumed the worst. Instead she could have:
1. Engaged him from the start by gaining his attention with her passion, energy, and human contact
2. Set her expectations immediately by sharing what she needed from him and in what time delay
3. Shown genuine respect for him, so that he could reciprocate that respect
4. Avoided the public ridicule by doing 1 through 3.

Are you conveying passion, energy, and enthusiasm for your work and your people? Are you setting the right expectations and giving respect first?

“When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us.” Arapaho Proverb

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What People Are Saying

Deborah Costello  |  26 Oct 2011  |  Reply

I know that engaging people in things that are particularly repetitive or not that interesting remains my and many others’ challenge. It’s been my experience that there is no point in beginning until you actually have everyone’s attention. Having them join midstream is not particularly helpful. Taking that extra 15 seconds to wait until everyone is ready to begin is the first step toward reengagement. After that you are so right. Passion, respect, and eenergy are so necessary.

There’s a lot to be said for working toward maintaining civility and respect in our daily interactions. Sometimes we get so rushed that we forget that this is both necessary and vital in human interactions.

Thanks for the reminder! hope you are well Sonia!

Sonia Di Maulo  |  26 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Hi Deb!

Rushed… yes it seems that we are almost always in a rush… often times forgetting about the people that get in our way. The event I witnessed was in part caused by the airline culture whose assumption is that “passengers are self-centered and rude”. While some may be, it’s important to remember that most are not. The same can be said of the people we lead, work with, and meet on a daily basis.

I practice assuming the best of others until proven otherwise. I have been greatly rewarded with great interactions (with both strangers and friends).

Thanks for commenting!


Christina Haxton, MA  |  27 Oct 2011  |  Reply

Hi Sonia,

Thank you for posting the re-do. Step #1 …Take responsibility. You can judge the quality of your communication by the response you get …

I really enjoy your posts!

Sonia Di Maulo  |  01 Nov 2011  |  Reply

Hi Christina!

Thrilled that you liked the post and found it helpful. Paying particular attention to non-verbals can help you assess the quality of your communication… we often do not pay enough attention to non-verbals. They can help you truly understand was is happening and give you an opportunity to clarify (in case of misinterpretation).


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