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Just calm down

Francisco Goya's "The Folly of Fear," National Gallery of ArtI grew up in Northeastern Ohio (in fact went to the same high school as Amber Vinson) and now live in Arlington Virginia, not far from the Pentagon. So I was closely following news reports of events as they unfolded this past week. I was not in any danger, and I was amazed how many people felt they were. This brought to mind a statement I often make to my clients and students: you can't listen when you're in panic mode.

When I say this to them in a training session I am referring to situations when they are "put on the spot" in a meeting or during Q & A following a speech. You know that feeling--when all of a sudden your adrenaline kicks in, your palms sweat, your face flushes and your words stick in your throat. Not only are you rendered inarticulate,  you become functionally hard-of-hearing as well. Fear is a powerful blocker of both incoming and outgoing messages!  

All the chatter about Ebola this past week reminded me of that state, that inability to listen because we are in too much of a panic mode to focus on what anyone is really saying. The truth of the matter is, of course, that Americans still have a far greater chance of dying from the flu this season than from Ebola, but that truth was hard to hear. It was being drowned out by the irresponsible media outlets who thrive on manufactured crises to increase their viewership/readership. And once people started to panic, they couldn't hear the voices of reason assuring them those "news" reports were bogus. Because when you stop breathing you stop listening. Think about it: have you ever really heard what someone was saying while holding your breath? I doubt it. You tense up in anticipation of BIG news (good or bad). You enter into a physiological state of altered awareness. Sometimes you hear part of the message, but not all of it, and not with all its nuance. You have doubtless noticed this when you try to deliver a message to someone who is in anticipatory panic mode. Your listener never hears the whole of what you have to say.

Yesterday's news about the quarantine in Dallas should have laid much of this fear to rest. But you know the fear-mongers will be back with another chapter. We must remember that they perform the same function as our inner voices of fear. They both stop us in our tracks when we panic. And they keep us from moving forward. Don't let that happen. Be clear-headed. Listen to what is really being said. See what is really there. And for all of our sakes--breathe!

Reader Comments (1)

A timely post and great illustration. It's painful to watch unscrupulous people channel the public's well-founded but nebulous fears about things like the economy and the environment into horror over Ebola, "gremlins," FOREIGNERS!

October 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterClaire Nicolay

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