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Communication Lesson: Smart People Become Sheep in Groups

Communication Lesson: Smart People Become Sheep in Groups

by Frank Roche on February 10, 2010

in Communication

sheeppen[Photo credit: Cushing Library]

Yesterday was one of those winter travel days I’d just as soon forget. I left Chicago in a snowstorm on one of only two planes that made it into Philadelphia. When I got to PHL, the airport was packed because of so many cancelled flights. People were everywhere.

They were standing like sheep in a pen at the Terminal D security exit. There were at least 300 people crowded in by the automatic exit doors, but not quite up to them. (There’s a set of automatic doors that open toward a set of 6 lanes with another set of automatic security panels that open like doors on the Starship Enterprise. Whoosh!)

I could almost hear “baa-baa.”

I’m not a guy to stand in lines if I don’t have to. I walked to the front of the sheep to find out what was going on. You wouldn’t believe it.

Three hundred people couldn’t figure out how to use the automatic doors. There were at least 100 people inside the anteroom waiting in front of six automatic doors. Just standing there. Waiting.

Meanwhile, more sheep were waiting outside the first set of automatic doors, because in Philly we forget how automatic doors work on snow days.



Magic. People stepped up to the doors. The doors opened. And 300 lost sheep exited Terminal D. On the other side, 300 smart people emerged.

Here’s Your Communication Lesson
People behave unexpectedly in groups. They get scared. Sometimes they don’t know what to do. When that happens, don’t be afraid to be the one to tell them.

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