CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain


What Did You Just NOT Say?

Posted by Jeffrey on September 24, 2008

Has this ever happened to you? You are talking with someone and suddenly they look away and focus on something else. Yeah, me too. In fact, it is me sometimes that looks away. Why? Why do we do that? Are we bored? Are we afraid we are going to miss out on something MORE important than what is happening right then and there? What does that tell the other person? Are we telling that person that they really aren’t that important. In a way, yeah!

As an airline captain, I like to get all my preflight work done early so that when the passengers start to board, I can be waiting at the main cabin door and greet them. It may be the worst day ever, but I still get up there, I smile, I make small talk, and occasionally talk to the first class passengers.

I do this for a few reasons. I believe that people want to see the captain. They want to see who they are entrusting their life and their family too. It makes them feel “appreciated” seeing a nicely dressed captain smiling and confident when there is a snow storm raging and your late already greeting them as they come on the airplane.

I also stand in front because it seems to make the boarding process go a little faster. When the captain is standing there, people aren’t necessarily as rude as they can be when flying commercially. And I’ve seen some nasty people. It also supports the flight attendant by taking some of the responsibility of the boarding process.

So I guess what I’m really talking about is presence and body language. There is a difference between just standing there and standing there projecting confidence and commandability. By understanding your body language and the body language of others, you will be able to more effectively communicate with you passengers and your crew.

So what makes up body language?

Movements, gestures, facial expressions to name a few. If you are aware of these things, you can control your projection and be able to read people better which ultimately improves communication.

How much do we communicate verbally?

Surprisingly very little. Only 7% of our words are communicated verbally. 38% is communicated through our voice, i.e, tone, pitch, etc. An amazing 55% is communicated through non-verbal language.

You can see that if you aren’t careful, you could be saying one thing with your voice and words and a totally different thing with your body.

When I’m at the flight deck door greeting people, it is so easy to cross my arms and greet. It’s comfortable but it sends the wrong signal. If I saw me, I would think that though he is smiling and seems grateful, he really just wants us off the airplane. A better posture to take would be to stand tall, lower my hands to either the side or in front of me and smile. It’s is a much more open stance.

Here are few other things that project confidence:

  • Posture – standing tall, shoulders square
  • Eye Contact – smile with your eyes
  • Gesture with Hands and Arms – palms for forward
  • Speech – open mouth and take it slow thinking before you speak
  • Tone – Never raise your voice rathere keep it controlled

Here are some things NOT to do:

  • Don’t make yourself small by keeping your hands and arms close to your body
  • Don’t make your face stoic and stern
  • Don’t turn away from customers when talking to them
  • Don’t cross your arms
  • Don’t look away

Can you tell the difference between the “do’s” and “do not’s”? Just writing the “do not’s” I could feel that dark cloud come over my head.

What Can You Do To Improve Your Non-Verbal Communication?

Well, it’s not that hard really. One thing that works for me is to recognize when I’m being closed and just remind myself to open up and focus on the positive things in my life and focus on the “NOW.”

Life gets on me like anyone else. I have my challenges and sometimes I get lost in thought and am probably not as open as I should or could be. When I go to work, I park as far away from the crew room as possible so that I will have time to walk and “readjust” my thought process. I remind myself that I am the captain and that I will be setting the tone for the next couple days. I remind myself that I have to focus on the positive and project a confident, open personality. I do this for any situation that will require interaction.

Being a good captain means more than just being a good pilot, you have to be a good ambassedor as well, so open up and smile.

Till next time…

P.S. Here is a book you might want to pick up. This book should be in your library. The Definitive Book of Body Language.


3 Responses to “What Did You Just NOT Say?”

  1. […] Be aware of what your body is doing. As I mentioned in another entry, 93% of what you say comes from your tone and body language. Relax your body and let your body “listen” to what the person is saying. […]

  2. […] What Did You Just NOT Say? […]

  3. […] What Did You Just NOT Say? […]

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