Usually, when an airline passenger's complaint goes viral, the public sides with the passenger.
Not this time, though.
It seems that University of Exeter lecturer Siobhan O'Dwyer did not enjoy her recent trip with Qantas airlines. According to O'Dwyer, before getting on the plane an employee looked over her boarding pass--which was printed with the name "Dr. O'Dwyer"--and decided instead to address her as "Miss O'Dwyer."
"Hey @Quantas," Ms. O'Dwyer tweeted. "My name is Dr O'Dwyer. My ticket says Dr O'Dwyer. Do not look at my ticket, look at me, look back at my ticket, decide it's a typo, and call me Miss O'Dwyer. I did not spend 8 years at university to be called Miss."
Oooh. That's not a good look.
It seems like many were thinking the same thing, because two days later, O'Dwyer tweeted the following:
"Copping so much flack for this tweet. This was not about my ego. It was about highlighting one of a thousand instances of sexism that women encounter every day. It's not about the title, it's about the fact that this wouldn't have happened if I was a man."
When asked for comment, Qantas delivered a short statement supporting its crew (as reported by Yahoo):
We are extremely proud of our cabin crew who respectfully serve our customers day in and day out and play a vital safety role. Our crew treat all passengers with the utmost respect, regardless of age, gender, and occupation.
Kudos to Qantas for striving to show respect for all, and for realizing a fundamental truth: Titles don't mean anything in the real world. Actions do.
How to earn the respect of others
First of all, to O'Dwyer's credit, she may have a point (regarding her second tweet). I've witnessed how men and women of the same position or circumstances are treated completely differently. And I agree that it's not fair.
But the first tweet totally destroyed any credibility in making that point.
I personally have a number of colleagues who hold PhDs, both men and women. I respect them all for their years of study and the expertise they hold in their respective subjects. At times, I call them doctor--usually when engaging with them in their particular field of study.
But this situation had nothing to do with a field of study. This was a passenger in an airport, getting ready to board an airplane with other passengers.
And here's the problem: Too many people today feel their title, accomplishments, or past experiences elevate them over others. But titles and degrees mean nothing in the real world. The school you graduated from, how long you studied, even what you've accomplished since then--none of this is relevant to your relationships with others.
In contrast, respect begets respect. How do you treat others? Do you look down on them? Or do you focus on their good points? Do you look to praise them, to show appreciation?
This is about more than emotional intelligence. It's recognizing the value in humility.
Surely, it isn't easy to work in a service industry like the airline business, with countless demanding customers. The Qantas employee may have been having a bad day; yet they still used the term "Miss," an expression of respect.
Imagine how differently things could have played out if Ms. O'Dwyer had acknowledged this, and showed appreciation for the employee and their hard work?
Remember: When you allow yourself to get offended so easily, you only set yourself up to be in a perpetual bad mood. You rob yourself of joy and happiness.
Instead, try cultivating an "attitude of gratitude." Show some empathy.
Because by looking for the best in others, you'll earn the respect you're looking for.
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.