Communicating effectively in a time of crisis can
be a life and death issue. Tylenol and Perrier knew how to do
it when their products posed a threat. Hydro-Quebec knew how to
do it during the tragic ice storm of 1998. And now with North
America under attack by terrorists, President Bush has become
a master at it.
Understanding the human response to crisis and then knowing how
to handle that response is a key feature.
No matter the size of the crisis, people have a similar initial
reaction, that of fear. Fear of the known. Fear of the unknown.
Sometimes the crisis is life threatening. Since people want to be
protected from danger, crisis will always trigger a flight or fight
response that manifests itself physically and/or emotionally.
Feelings of grief, loss, pain and confusion are abundant. Thinking
becomes fuzzy and decisions are difficult to make. Stress responses
often preclude illness. No matter the size of the crisis
personal or global survival is the focus.
To overcome the fear inherent in a crisis and replace it with clarity
of thinking and clear, honest communication there are a few steps
all of us can take:
- Breathe. It's a requirement of life. Why stop now? When we feel
fear, we hold our breath. This contributes to a foggy mind and
limits the oxygen to our brain and internal organs. So keep breathing!
- Size up the situation. Gather information. Separate the facts
from the emotions.
- Generate as many ideas as possible to unearth the cause rather
than the symptoms of the crisis at hand. Work co-operatively with
others towards a solution.
- Be ready for change. All crises demand some form of change.
Observe how you as an individual resist and adapt to changes.
Develop the two most important qualities necessary for adapting
hope and resourcefulness.
- Take time to appreciate the positives in your life. It's natural
and often necessary to recognize the negatives in a disaster.
Yet crisis creates a time of transition, a time to shift focus
from the negative to the positive and to create opportunities
for constructive change.
- Evaluate resources and take action. Make use of the personal
qualities that give you strength. What resources outside of your
self can be utilized? Your friends, relatives, colleagues, even
the media can be of assistance to you in a time of crisis.
- Share all that you know. Knowledge is power. Information minimizes
fear but too much information at once can cause confusion, more
fear and panic. Disseminate information in digestible bites and
gauge how much you can handle at any one time. Be honest and let
is show with body language.
Surviving and thriving in a crisis means joining hands for support
and sharing information clearly, effectively and with respect for
the human condition. Remember, you're never alone in a crisis
it just feels that way. We all understand what it means to be immobilized
by fear and anxiety. Likewise, we know how comforting it is to communicate
with someone who shares and understands the experience.
Lorraine Weygman is an accomplished author, motivational speaker
and Human Resources consultant. A recent addition
to the Sources media directory, she can be reached at (416)
Crisis by Any Other Name
Times of Crisis