A news article shared by shareably provides a great example of the positive impact of empathy……..
When Peggy Uhle boarded Southwest Airline’s flight from Chicago to Columbus, she turned off her phone just like everybody else and waited patiently for the plane to taxi down the runway and take off. It was just an ordinary flight on an ordinary day – or so she thought.
Before the plane could even make it halfway down the runway, it stopped and turned back towards the gate. When they pulled up, a flight attendant approached Peggy and asked her to exit the plane. Peggy just thought that she had accidentally boarded the wrong flight. Turns out, that was far from the case……………………
I am sharing this story as firstly it is a story that makes you feel proud of the human race, but it is also an excellent example of the power of empathy (my passion and my work), both cognitive empathy (imagining what another might be feeling – the recognition part) and the affective empathy (allowing yourself to feel it and respond – the action part). This story shows so well how we, as human beings, when utilising our natural attribute of empathy in a conscious way, can step into another’s’ world momentarily, can feel with them a little and then can proactively find ways to respond to that. Sometimes this is very subtle and can be simply listening. Other times, like this story demonstrates, is in actions that make another person’s circumstances so much easier….or at the very least, making sure it is NOT made harder.
Once Peggy was back in the terminal, a gate agent approached her and gave her some devastating news. Peggy’s 24-year-old son, who lived in Denver, was just in an accident that left him with a serious head injury and in a coma. Peggy didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, Southwest had already taken care of all the details, though.
Before Peggy could even process the news, the gate agent told her that the airline had reticketed her on the next direct flight to Denver, for free. They had even taken care of all the minor details, such as rerouting her luggage and ensuring it was delivered to the proper location.
“They offered a private waiting area, rerouted my luggage, allowed me to board first, and packed a lunch for when I got off the plane in Denver. My luggage was delivered to where I was staying, and I even received a call from Southwest asking how my son was doing,” Uhle told an online forum.
Most airlines don’t stop and reroute a plane for anything less than an emergency onboard, but Southwest Airlines has shown its customers that it’s not just any airline. Going above and beyond the call of duty, the airline and its staff deserve a huge shout out!
So here is my ‘SHOUT OUT’ for the airline and it’s staff for all being proactive, thinking empathically and having a can do attitude that puts the person before procedures which so often get in the way of empathy and us acting in the best interest of our fellow human being. I wish Peggy’s son a full and speedy recovery.