By Cindy Campbell

Some time ago, I decided to invest in a compact rolling bag that would always fit easily under the seats of small regional jets. On a recent trip, a member of the airport ground crew was waiting at the end of the jet bridge to collect larger gate checked baggage. I smiled and nodded as I rolled past her with my bag. “You need to leave that here,” she barked. Once I realized that she was talking to me, I turned and kindly thanked her, letting her know that I knew from experience that the small bag would fit under my seat. Without uttering a sound, she responded to my statement with a fairly dramatic eye roll.

Oh. No. She. Didn’t.

Now, if you know me, you likely know my motto in customer service situations like this: Challenge accepted.

I stopped, took in a calming breath, and turned back toward her. “I’m sorry,” I began, “I didn’t hear you clearly. Do you need me to do something differently?” Her response wasn’t unexpected or technically wrong. “I didn’t say anything to you,” she said. “Right,” I replied, “and yet your look said everything.”

When was the last time you and your team talked about how loud a look can be? It’s important to remember how quickly our spoken words can be silenced by a harsh facial expression. When the content of a message isn’t unified with how it looks, your facial expression and body language will be assumed as the accurate message.

Cindy Campbell is IPI’s senior training and development specialist.