A rude guy’s elbow

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I’m writing this on a plane to Atlanta. The last time I was on a plane I was working intently on some stuff I needed to finish that day. For like three seconds, I took my hands off the keyboard and looked over my shoulder.

In that tiny window, the guy sitting to my right slid his entire elbow over the armrest between us!

The only way I could still use my right hand to operate the trackpad was to squish my whole right side and lean awkwardly. I wasn’t brazen enough to actually talk to him about it, but I wasn’t going to just take this kind of treatment.

So I kept subtly pushing my arm into his elbow to let him know I wanted my territory back. Felt weird, but hey, I had work to do. Take that, anonymous stranger next to me!

After about a minute of this contortion, I finally got up the nerve to turn to him to ask for a bit of space. And lo and behold, he was sound asleep. Then the craziest thing happened.

Where one second previous I had been mad and offended, all of a sudden I empathized with him. I know how hard it is to fall asleep on planes. And I was worried that if I picked his arm up and moved it back onto his lap, I would wake him up. So I decided to stick it out.

And guess what? Leaning the other way suddenly didn’t seem that bad. Now that my emotions were balanced around serving or helping someone else, I was way less bugged than when I’d been defensive. Eventually, he woke up and we joked about the movie he hadn’t been watching. No big deal at all.

I believe about 75 percent of our frustrations with the news media are just like this situation I experienced. We as PR people assume the worst, that they’re trying to stick it to us . . . or they’re lazy and careless . . . or they have a hidden agenda.

When all along, they are just oblivious to the issue that has you concerned. They’ve got so much going on, and so much coming at them, they don’t have time to even think about you, let alone to think of ways to spite you.

And when you put yourself in their seat and think of times in your life you’ve felt overwhelmed or stretched too thin, suddenly your irritation dwindles, and you start to think of ways you can be helpful to them.

Want to know how to start? Pick a key influencer you haven’t heard back from. Write her an email that says nothing about you. Just observe what her life must be like, based on the work you’ve seen from her, and thank her for it. Click “send.”

Then preserve that feeling you have at that moment – whether she writes back or not. Keep that feeling when you pitch, or ask for a correction, or follow up. It will color all your outreach in such a way that will make her notice and appreciate you back.

Doesn’t guarantee coverage – you’ve gotta have news judgment and framing skills for that – but it helps, and it sure feels better than the alternative.