I’d like to make a confession.
The truth is I like to think of myself as a reasonable guy, a nice guy, the kind of guy who would not just lend, but actually give away, a cup of sugar if a neighbor came by asking for one.
Be that as it may, I don’t always agree with the folks managing my local airport. They sometimes do things that make no sense to me, financially or in terms of marketing the facilities. On other occasions I find they don’t take an appropriate interest in the visionary ideas I share with them. They just don’t seem to care.
This can be tremendously frustrating.
Based on comments shared with me in conversation, and notes that slip in through my email, I gather I’m not the only one with this particular grievance.
Just the other day I spoke with a fellow who was fairly worked up that his home airport, a non-towered facility, had a published right-hand traffic pattern. Well, there’s just no need for it to be a right-hand pattern, he explained. Maybe there was a rationale once, but that logic has gone away thanks to residential and commercial development that has led to new obstacles near the airport on the traffic pattern side.
I commiserated with this decent, honestly concerned man who wanted nothing more than to get what he wanted because it was the right thing to do. I felt a little badly for him. His reasoning was sound. A left-hand traffic pattern is the standard, so why not institute the standard pattern when the conditions that led to the establishment of a non-standard pattern have changed? Changed to the point that a standard pattern makes as much sense, or maybe more, sense than the non-standard pattern that has been in use there for so many years.
This particular individual was insistent, but very polite in his argument. I’ve met others who fuss and yell as they vent about their particular situation.
In each case the airport management just won’t budge. They just do what they want with no interest at all given to the local pilots who use, promote, and support the airport.
Or so it seems.
Some view these disagreements as a personal affront. They take real offense at the disconnect between administrators and users. They sometimes encourage me to do something, as if I have magical powers of persuasion that will rectify the situation in the user’s favor.
In truth, I’m glib, but not nearly gifted enough to solve every complaint that comes my way. In fact, I have the exact same problem at my local airport.
Although I carry five FAA certificates in my wallet, have decades of experience, a long history of helping out whenever I can, and a track record that includes promotion of the wonders of my local airport to the point of almost being shameless, they don’t listen to me a bit. I’m just another local with an opinion they don’t want to be bothered with.
Now, lest you believe I have a bad relationship with my airport’s administration, let me share with you some pertinent perspective.
My wife is the great, stable rock in my life. I think the world of her. For 30 years she’s been there for me and shows no sign of pulling up stakes and moving out. But she and I disagree on pretty much everything. We always have.
On the subject of how to raise the kids, we have very different beliefs. Our perspectives are often completely incompatible. Similarly, our theories of how to handle money are so wildly divergent we have kept our finances separate for our entire marriage. We just can’t find common ground on that topic. Not a bit. Even the idea of buying the house we live in led to a spirited discussion about size, cost, upkeep, and interior design. My view lost out at pretty much every turn in those exchanges. Still, we bought the house.
All that is true. Yet we managed to raise kids who grew up to be reasonably successful adults with jobs, bright futures, and better than average social skills. We somehow manage to pay our bills on time and still have a few bucks left over to enjoy life with, and although the house was a big decision and will remain a work-in-progress for many years to come, we’re very happy here. With any luck at all I’ll spend the rest of my days in this big old drafty wood frame shack.
The long and the short of it is, relationships are hard. Whether personal or professional, romantic or platonic, private or public, relationships take work.
Often, the key to building a workable relationship that has real value is to take the long view. It’s not about winning every argument. It’s not about winning any argument. It’s more about avoiding arguments altogether. Take a step back, recognize that virtually every disagreement you’ll find is centered around a subjective issue and things get a bit easier. More productive, even.
There may be no right or wrong. Because the topics are subjective, there are multiple options to consider. None are perfect. Not even the one you are most attached to.
A productive relationship is far more rewarding than an unproductive one. And just to be clear, if one party raises their voice or disparages the character of their counterpart during a debate, that relationship needs a trip to the shop for some much-needed repair.
You can’t bully, insult, or coerce another into joining you in a successful relationship. You can accept that you won’t get everything you want, however. And with that decision, explained with care and respect, you may gain a level of respect and appreciation that makes each subsequent disagreement somewhat more likely to be resolved in a way you find palatable.
Knowing all that, let’s see how we might be able to become a valuable asset to our local administrators, rather than a thorn in their side. Your grandmother wasn’t wrong about this sort of thing. Honey catches more flies than vinegar ever will.