Survival Talk – 9 Tips to Keep Unity in a Crisis or Survival Situation

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Has this happened to you? A small “thing” escalates to a full blown crisis because of poor or sloppy communication. Now imagine the stress and pressure of a real disaster, crisis, emergency or survival situation. To help, here’s 9 tips you can use to communicate more effectively and increase the chance of keeping everyone together and alive.

If you find yourself in a scenario where you are fighting for your life with others in a group context, be it two, or a tribe of people, it is going to be VERY important to understand basic group dynamics and communication.

How you communicate can literally become a matter of life or death. People are people and man, how many times I’ve said if there weren’t doggone people in the world, life would be so easy! (Um, this is not a very good heart posture, by the way.) It is critical to learn how to take the high road in challenging interpersonal interactions.

With the advent of internet and people hidden behind screens having venues to blab whatever they feel with no accountability, the fact that our culture has become very argumentative and divisive has been exponentialized. Everyone just wants to be heard and seems like no-one wants to listen much. (Discovering a focus beyond someone’s own self-interest is a rare and beautiful thing!) This generally shallow-minded approach to life is what we’re likely going to have to work with in a crisis situation.

So how do we break through the self-serving, self-focused- dominant mindset to create in people a real desire to serve within a group for the common good?

First, those who are leaders have to start at a place of realizing that most people’s moral compasses are broken. Some won’t even have one. Why that matters in a survival situation is that some won’t value your life one teeny weenie little bit. It literally will be, for them, all about doing whatever it takes to serve/save themselves and only themselves. Is it even possible to accomplish anything positive with a person like this as part of a group? I believe in some cases it can be.

As a Christian, I seek to follow the example of Jesus in how I approach people. Jesus validated people, treated the “least of these” with the “greatest of these” kind of kindness, yet he also confronted wrongdoing and evil. Now that did get him killed, but it was still the right thing to do…which gets back to having a moral compass. Figure out what your values are and how you will navigate a difficult situation by staying true to them. In the end, you have to know that you stayed true to your core beliefs.

So how do we navigate the gnarly world of multiple personalities trying to work toward a common goal? I have some key thoughts I’ve gathered through the years of walking through the world of mankind.

Listen.

If everyone is talking, no-one is listening. Validate people by engaging with them in what they are trying to communicate. Use eye contact. Treat them with respect as the image-bearers of God that they are. I have found that people decide within the first few minutes of speaking with someone whether or not they can be trusted based upon their communication style. When you do speak, realize that your words matter. In the Bible it says – “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” I have found this to be true! People reveal a lot about themselves by what and how they speak.

Let others lead.

Are you trustworthy? Do you have self-control? How do you handle criticism?  Do *not* assume a leadership role in a survival situation if you are someone who is insecure, always tearing other people down or in conflict. You need to see yourself clearly and honestly here for the sake of others! You can have all the skill in the world and destroy a situation with immature, emotionally-charged communication. I challenge you to ask someone else you respect to evaluate you in this regard before a crisis situation arises. We all have blind spots and tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  It takes honesty and humility to be able to admit that someone else would be better fit to lead in a highly charged circumstance.  And there is nothing to lose with a good leader – because they will utilize your gifts for all you’re worth!

Ask good questions…

or probe to enable you to clearly understand what another person is saying. Some examples are: “Tell me what you are thinking.” “How can I help?” “Help me to understand.” “How can I make this work out for you?” “What is our common ground?”  Also, reflecting back to someone what they have just said to be sure you heard correctly is invaluable for both parties.

Kindness.

It is SO important. At the core, everyone wants to be valued and loved. Kindness communicates these things. Go above and beyond in random acts of kindness as the situation allows. Nothing builds goodwill better. When we engage people in a caring way – even if they approach us in a harsh tone – it reaches to another level of understanding of that person – realizing that their harshness is most likely not personal, but a manifestation of brokenness, fear or woundedness. Anger always has a history. We need to uncover what that is in a gentle way.
When people have concerns, start out by thanking them for trusting you enough to voice those concerns.

So there will be confrontation.

It’s life with people. It happens. So here we are in an emergency crisis situation and someone wants to make an incident. How do we deal with this and get people back to sanity enough to just be able to have a needed conversation? First, realize that a micro-confrontation within a larger survival situation is rarely about you -vs- them. Pull someone who is emotionally charged aside and ask those questions I cited above, telling someone, “I hear what you are saying.” “Can we agree to disagree and still work as a team?” Always remember, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” If you don’t feed someone’s fire, it will usually go out.

Along the previous lines, I remember reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People ages ago and the one principle of the many that has stuck with me is, when someone disagrees with you, get them to a place of agreement – a point of common ground, where they are saying “Yes, yes” with you on something. This puts you on the same team and deescalates conflict.

Know that when someone expresses frustration it is usually because they care deeply about something.

Find out what that something is and work through it with them. “So I hear your frustration. Do you want to help me understand why you are feeling so frustrated? I’d love to hear your heart about it.”

Grace-filled responses…

to educate someone or to agree to disagree are compelling to people. I find that people who daily cultivate a realization of their own need for grace -from God and others- are the ones who are able to lavishly dispense it.

A positive outlook…

cannot be overstated in its effects on everyone around you.  Responding in an opposite spirit to negativity and strife really can neutralize it.

Think of the leaders throughout history whom you hold in the deepest regard.

Are they not the ones who were able to lead in a way that cared for people deeply above themselves (usually borne out of a devotion to God) and yet commanded their respect and cooperation in engagements of war or other challenges in ways that made them a name in history not through self-seeking, but because they elevated the value of the persons under their leadership and usually humankind at large?

May we follow their example. ~Carin