Leaders and Crisis Intervention
“My Day Did Not Go As Planned”
by William P. Dieckmann
You are sitting in your office all ready for a hard day of work with much to get done. The phone rings and one of your employees has been in an accident. All the plans for the day are put on hold. You rearrange all your appointments. You let the people at the office know that you are headed to the hospital. The hospital is out of town and three hours away. On the drive to the hospital you get a call and the news is not good. You head back to the office. The next day you go to the house to be with your employee’s spouse. What do I do? What do I say? How can I help? Many other questions come and go.
Crisis comes to all Leaders. Some are small and some are large. Crisis intervention to those in crisis can help others to regain a sense of control and begin the process of putting their life back together. Crisis intervention is about active listening and helping others develop ideas with coping in the next few hour or days in the aftermath of a life altering event.
Here are five practical was to help:
- Attend to survival needs: Are they safe? Is the family safe?
- Attend to comfort needs: Do they have food and shelter?
- Act as liaison between the victim and emergency personnel: Do they need help working with others? (They maybe numb or in shock.)
- Give referrals to victims and family: Who can help them with short and long term needs?
- Building relationships
What can you do? Listen!!! “Simply reviewing something painful from the past with someone who helps us see a different perspective, LeDoux suggest, can gradually loosen some of the distress by reencoding disturbing memories. This may be one reason for the relief that can come when client and therapist rehash troubles: the talk itself may alter the way the brain registers what’s wrong.” (Goleman) “It’s something like what happens naturally when we churn a worry over in our mind, and come to a new perspective.” (LeDoux) You don’t need to be a therapist to listen!! Just listen don’t try to analyze.
Some possible questions:
- Where were you when you heard about ______________ accident?
- What do you feel like you need to do next?
- Who can you talk with about this?
- How is your family doing?
Listening well is at the top of the list of what to do when responding to someone after they have just come through a crisis. Listed below are some important actions to help anyone listen better. By the way practice does make prefect, so ask several people you know to tell you a story or two and do some practicing. You may also share with them this list and then can help you evaluate your work. Have fun with it!
- Don’t’ talk too much: “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.
- Prepare to listen: Spend some time before the conversation putting other thoughts out of your Don’t worry about what you are going to have for lunch! Note: “To make it work, you have to set aside what you are doing, put down the memo you are reading, disengage from your laptop, abandon your day dream, and focus on the person you’re with.” (Harvard Business Review, January-February 1999, p 59) When other tasks or preoccupations split our attention, the dwindling reserve left for the person we are talking with leaves us operating on automatic, paying just enough attention to keep the conversation on track. Should more presence be called for, the result will be an interaction that feels “off.” (Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, 2006)
- Focus on the needs and concerns of the person talking: Maintain eye contact but don’t stare. Give them words of encouragement. Don’t talk business!!
- Don’t Distract: Don’t doodle, shuffle paper, or look out the window. Don’t send messages to the speaker that you are distracted.
- Empathize: See the person’s point of view. Have an open mind, leave your preconceived notions at home.
- Be patient: Silence is ok don’t rush. Don’t interrupt the speaker.
- Listen to the person’s tone of voice: follow the emotion of their conversation.
- Listen for themes: what is the big picture?
- Non-Verbal communication: Listen with your eyes.
We all will face someone who just went through a crisis. Nothing we can do will prevent some things from happening. Accept this fact. When you respond to a crisis situation: don’t judge, be present, listen well, and help with some practical needs. They don’t need you to be a professional they just need you!!
National Organization of Victim Assistance
Harvard Business Review, January-February 1999, p 59
Social Intelligence, Dr. Daniel Coleman