How do you perform in a crisis? For many people, the physical and psychological pressures of a crisis make them more focused. However, too much stress can disrupt a person’s decision-making, reasoning, and thinking.
Critical communication expert Dr. Robert Chandler points out that in a crisis, there is an inverse relationship between stress levels and a person’s cognitive abilities. As stress levels rise, an individual’s cognitive abilities decrease, which can make even simple tasks more difficult. In addition, adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress-related hormones put stress on the human body, and can affect a person’s physiological readiness to respond to an emergency.
To better understand how stress impacts crisis response, consider how an organization might respond to a power failure. When the lights go out, critical communication is vital, and an organization will try to notify affected individuals about the incident and provide frequent status updates. But as stress levels rise, decreases in reaction time, difficulties in coordination and manipulation, and physical immobility can present challenges to an emergency notification professional who is trying to perform their duties and functions.
Understanding and adapting to stress is crucial throughout the lifecycle of an emergency. Stress can negatively affect a person’s ability to hear, see, listen, think, process, decide, and act. An emergency notification professional who cannot manage stress during a crisis could struggle to complete critical communication tasks quickly and accurately.
To manage stress during a crisis, Dr. Chandler recommends:
1. Streamlining emergency notification tasks – Create simple procedures for emergency notification personnel to minimize problems that could arise during a critical event. By doing so, an emergency notification professional will be able to communicate quickly, easily, and efficiently with large groups of people.
2. Planning ahead – Craft messages in advance to use in different contexts and for different audiences. Use message maps to eliminate the inaccuracies of constructing messages under stress.
3. Utilizing emergency preparedness exercises – Ensure key employees are ready to deal with stressful situations. Conduct emergency preparedness drills under demanding conditions to prepare a crisis response team.
Want to learn more about how stress impacts critical communication? Check out this white paper.