Friday 10 December 2021

In a crisis...

I heard a great anecdote this week about some experts on Crisis Management from (I think) Harvard. They begin their presentation with a series of slides: 

1    In a crisis...
2    Either the crisis manages you...
3    Or...

.... and then ask the participants to respond.  Apparently, wherever and whenever they do this, they always get the same response; '... or you manage the crisis.'

Which, they then go on to say, is the wrong answer.  (In passing, it interests me that the structure of the question so reliably prompts that response: are we so conditioned to think in clich├ęs?... but that is not my main point).

The correct answer, according to them, is '... or you manage you.'  Their point being that it is of the nature of a crisis that it is unmanageable: that is almost a definition of a crisis. But what we can manage is our response to it.

And that makes perfect sense to me. It also accords with the insights of Viktor Frankl (qv)  and his observation (hard-won in the concentration camps) that 'Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.' 

Which is all well and good: but how does one manage oneself in a crisis?

One part of an answer is all the work on resilience, about which I have blogged before a few times (here for example).

Another aspect is to do with awareness: so that we understand our particular, and predictable, responses if we are starting to lose control of ourselves; that is, if we are not moderating our thinking and behaviour as well as we usually do. And that is precisely what the Hogan Development Survey (or Dark Side as it is popularly known) looks at.

So it is no coincidence that the Dark Side behaviours that the tool explores are grouped in fight (moving against) and flight (moving away) categories, with an additional two that are about ingratiating (moving towards).

Thus the fight behaviours are those labeled bold, mischievous, colourful and imaginative; the flight behaviours are excitable, sceptical, cautious, reserved, and leisurely; and the ingratiating behaviours are diligent and dutiful. It is worth saying that these labels are not always helpful, and often looking at the subscales in each category sheds more light on what it encompasses. Thus leisurely is a combination of passive aggressive, unappreciated and irritated.

So it is helpful for me to know, via the Dark Side tool, that the warning signs I need to look out for,  that suggest I am losing control, are those associated with colourful, reserved, and imaginative. Thus if I feel inclined to start to show off (colourful), withdraw (reserved) or suggest ever more, and ever more bizarre, ideas (imaginative), it is likely that I am not self-moderating as well as I usually do.

That knowledge no only acts as an early warning system, as it were; but also provides me with a longer term strategy to work to address these tendencies, should I wish to do so.

And if I put all these disciplines in place, and then, in a crisis, simply pause, breathe, count to ten, and then access all this understanding, I may just be better placed to manage my response to it.

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