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Incidents: How to be effective in high-stress situations

I liked Duff McDuffy's entry called How to Remain Equanimous in a Difficult Situation. It is based on physiology -- how our bodies react when we feel stressed. No woo-woo, just science and experience.

Based on my own experience, I would add two things.

1. In step 1, when you relax your facial muscles, make sure you also close your mouth. Closing your mouth has many, many advantages. Here are a few:
  • You lose less water by breathing through your nose. In dry environments that can be a life or death decision.
  • You don't get a dry mouth, so if you need to say something, you'll actually be able to speak right away.
  • By not babbling you do not distract yourself from your feelings and/or thoughts.
  • By not babbling, you do not distract other people who may be in a better position than you to fix the problem.
  • By not babbling, you appear cool. Appearing cool not only gives you higher status and makes people pay attention when you do actually say something. In many cases, appearing cool and alert is all it takes to fail a criminal's victim interview.
2. To Duff's point #4, I would add that in many cases simply to watch the situation unfold and remain aware of your surroundings, as well as your own process, is what it takes to "win" in an incident.

Granted, there are situations in which swift action is required to stay alive. Sitting in a car that's about to plunge into a lake, is one example. But there are many more situations that are improved by simply doing nothing and paying attention. It also has the added bonus that it drives jerks crazy when you don't react to their BS by bouncing off the walls. :-)


Regarding Suzette Haden Elgin I was asked to "tell everyone that she's really sorry, but she just can't communicate anymore. She just can't focus on things well enough to even answer an email, let alone talk to anyone."

I followed the link from her livejournal to your site, wanted to let you know.