Imagine that you missed your flight and were now going to be late for an important client meeting. Would you panic and yell at the airline associate working to get you on the next available flight? Or would you be calm, slowly explaining your situation while you asked for their help to get you on the next plane? Often in crisis – we are reactive. We go into stress mode – which wreaks havoc on the way we communicate with others – and it usually does not serve the situation or yield our desired results.
Personally, I have been told I am very calm in crisis (it is after all is well that I completely fall apart). Recently I had the opportunity to prove this reaction during a workshop I was leading.
I was teaching a public speaking workshop to a group of 12 high level professionals at a financial firm. On day two, each participant gave a brief presentation that was taped. A woman, I will call her Carla, said she wasn’t feeling well and asked if she could go first before she got too sick. Only a few minutes in, though, she started getting dizzy and had to stop and sit back down.
Another participant quickly volunteered to go. Shortly after he started his presentation, Carla stood up, took a step, and promptly fell to the ground– hard. She had fainted. The rest of us sprang into action. I grabbed a wet cloth, a few of her colleagues got on the floor with her, and another one called the paramedics, her husband and her assistant. That last call proved to be a mistake. Her assistant was a nervous Nelly. She raced around the room, made the rest of us crazy with her panicky chatter , and nearly turned what was a calm handling of the situation into a into a frenzy. She kept asking what she should do and trying to interject herself into the solution. Although she meant well, her energy really wasn’t helpful.
Have you ever considered the type of energy you bring to a crisis situation? Think back to the last time you were in a critical situation – did your reaction help or hurt? What can you do differently next time?