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Relationship Building: Affirmation Soothes the Pain

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help better cope with an emergency situation.

            Bleeding and screaming, the 5- year-old girl tried in vain to fend off her growling attackers after she inadvertently wandered into a pit-bull dog pen. Her mother, panicking at the screams, flew into the pen like a hawk , sweeping her frightened and bitten daughter into the safety of her arms.

         “Ssh, Ssh, Ssh, it’s okay now,” her mom cooed. She rushed her daughter to the safety of a nearby bench far away from the now locked dog pen. “You’re okay. Momma’s here for you. Ssh, Ssh, Ssh.”

           But to no avail. Her little girl continued to cry. The louder her mom tried to comfort her daughter with an affectionate “Ssh, Ssh,” the louder she cried. And the more she cried the faster she bled. The crying and bleeding seemed to get worse just when the ambulance arrived.

         I’ve been there. Bet you have too. We want to make the hurt go away. Now. And we’re frustrated when our best efforts are fruitless. This scenario got me to thinking how an effective leader (vs. an emotionally attached parent) would handle this situation. I wondered if a leader could more strategically focus on the critical (over-all well-being of the victim) rather than on the vital (the wound) and how that more strategic perspective would (the victim’s overall well-being), improve the expected result: stop the bleeding.

        I learned a lot about leadership from this scenario, especially when the trained medical first responder took the opposite tact from what the mom did (and what I would have done)— acknowledging not discounting — the girl’s painful, scary experience.

         The emergency response LEADER confronted his 5-year-old patient with the reality of the situation. “Wow, look at all that blood on your arm. I’ll bet that really hurts, doesn’t it,?” she said, kneeling down to get a closer look. “Can you help me?

         The little girl nodded. Her screaming diminished. “I think together we can stop that blood,” she said, handing the girl a compress. “Just press this down on your arm while I bandage your other arm, okay.” The girl took the pad. She stopped screaming. “Hey you are doing a great job for me. I knew you could stop that blood and you did. Wow!”

        Soon her bleeding stopped. So did her crying. The little girl was under the leadership (a.k.a. influence) of a trained first responder who knew that the way to initially treat someone is to first retreat into their world, to see the situation from their eyes, to feel their pain as they are feeling it. Trauma victims in particular need to have the reality of their situation affirmed before they can begin to cope with it, to accept it and to recover from it, psychologists say.

      In first seeking to confront rather than comfort the wound, the first responder did much more than persuade the girl to stop crying. The LEADER influenced her. The LEADER led the 5-year-old to the desired behavior (stop the bleeding)  by first acknowledging her feelings, her situation, her reality. And only then did he offer a solution that made more sense to her, a solution that didn’t try to SSh her hurt feelings away, a solution that validated and soothed her pain, a solution she could adapt and adopt. With a passion.

    This scenario taught  that leadership must always be focused on OTHERS first no matter how much I hurt seeing you hurt and just wanting the pain to go away. The mom (or dad) in all of us hurts when our children get hurt. But as a leader I need to INITIALLY step back and access more than step in and address. I need to first salve then solve. I need to really listen to the cries of a victim for lasting help not merely hear their screams for temporary relief.

Today’s ImproveMINT
Validate the situation others are facing to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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