Keeping My Thoughts to Myself

Keeping My Thoughts to Myself

Another thing about being female.

I used to strike up conversations with strangers about all kinds of subjects, sometimes substantive, other times esoteric. I might talk with a flight attendant about the clash of cultures when airlines merge. I might speak with a television executive about how disruptive we thought cable was, not realizing the real threat to broadcast television was the Internet. I might talk about the effects of global warming on the severity of hurricanes in the east. Once, I would have struck up a conversation about just about any topic.  Not anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I do not like to talk. I do. I do like to talk. I have amassed information about a lot of stuff. I don’t forget much. I like talking with people about what they have learned, particularly when my conversation partners can increase my knowledge base. The problem is not that I do not want to have a conversation. The problem is that I cannot find anyone who wants to talk with me.

Last week I tried an experiment on my flight from Charlotte to Denver. It’s an 8:20 PM departure American Airlines brings back every summer, and they can never figure out what to serve in first class. One year it’s a full meal. The next it’s nuts and a chocolate chip cookie. This year they changed the service yet again, to what they call “Lite Bites.”

A few years ago I had a conversation with two flight attendants about the problem with the 8:20 flight. They suggested I write the people at Chairman’s Preferred and suggest a solution. I did, and heard back from a company executive who said they had decided to return full meal service to the flight. Because two flight attendants and an in-service executive took me seriously, I was heard and the problem was solved.

So, after using the restroom on last week’s flight, I spoke to two flight attendants in first class and asked, “For the last couple of years this flight has had full meal service. I wonder what made them downgrade it to “Lite Bites?” Both shrugged and didn’t even look up. As I returned to my seat, one dismissively said, “No, this flight has never had full meal service, not ever.” And with that, the conversation was over.

And there you go. That is why I do not speak up anymore. I figured it out about a year after transitioning. People no longer care to hear what I have to say. So I keep my thoughts to myself. It’s not nearly as fun, but it beats being summarily dismissed by a young flight attendant who knows better, even though I’m the one who has been flying 100,000 miles a year since before she was a sparkle in her parents’ eyes.

Then again, who am I to complain? At least I am still getting my free upgrades to first class. I mean, they could be saying, “We’ve decided to save first class upgrades for men only. You know, people who know things.” In fact, come to think of it, that’s what society did say for several thousand years. Huh! How come I’m just now realizing that?

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5 thoughts on “Keeping My Thoughts to Myself

  1. Good Morning Paula

    I believe your story. It sad how people are. I am lucky My children are so caring of people and their feelings. On another note Debbie came to my house the other day. All is well she is back at ISP with Elite Air. Best Jeri

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  2. I appreciate your mobility, awareness, insight and diverse perspectives as well as your continuing willingness to share with us through printed thoughts.

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  3. I smile knowingly to myself each time you write about a new to discovery in being female. In my younger days, I frequently eased my ideas into administrative meetings, so as not to alarm the men. By the time I retired, I spoke freely as all the men had always done…and in doing so, I’m sure was considered ‘bossy’ and that other B word. Now I just laugh. Here’s to opinionated,bossy girls who, if they were boys, would be considered leaders.

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  4. Interesting. Sounds more like a problem with listening than with talking.

    One of my teachers did executive level consulting with Fortune 500 companies. She never solved a problem, I don’t believe. But, she helped these executives learn how they could improve upon the process they were using to solve problems. One technique she used to teach people was “process observation.” This involved studying how people communicated with each other. It started with the nonverbals: how people arrange themselves, how they are dressed, how they are sitting, how they spoke, etc. It continued by looking at who is talking, how many times they talk, and how long they spoke each time. Who is helping to manage relationships, who is helping the group stay on task, and who is pursuing a personal agenda, are questions she would pose. How does the group resolve conflict? How are turns negotiated? Who gets cut off? Who is saying nothing? Who is committed to the group? Process observation gets people to focus on the question of how people are communicating in a small group.

    Most people don’t notice or don’t think to ask a silent group member for their opinion. Most people don’t know how to politely stop someone from dominating a conversation. Many people, men especially, do not know how to listen. This is undoubtedly a principle reason why her services were needed.

    We listen to those perceived to have power and often ignore the rest. This feedback reinforces the way people comunicate or don’t communicate with each other. It tends to silence some and empower others to speak. I wish more people paid attention to the process, listened to others, and focused on acheiving the best/most inclusive outcomes.

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