Posted on Jun 23, 2015
SSG Erik Wittreich
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One of my favorite sayings from the military was “calm breeds calm”. I first heard it used by my colleague Jeff who was senior to me and often in charge of complex, high stress situations. Simply put, emotion is contagious. If you act calm, especially when in charge, it will reduce hysteria in others. On the other hand, if you wear your emotions on your sleeve, those around you will mirror your behavior (in stressful events, at least).

I’m sure every reader can relate to the Hollywoodization of war and battle. The actor yelling into the radio “We need support, we are getting flanked!!!” or the police offer shouting into their mic “Shots fired, send backup!!!” or even examples of dramatic calls to 911 reporting injury – all of this behavior leads to three things. First, it instantly increases tension among those “on the ground” that hear the plea for assistance. It compounds the chaos to those that are immediately dealing with the stressful situation. When the soldier hears his or her captain yell into the radio during a gun fight, they become stressed too. Second, it often causes unnecessary stress in those that can’t control the situation. For example, when the cop gets on the radio and makes a call that shots were fired, the rest of the police force hear that call and immediately begin to get involved in the ordeal. If the tone of the caller is stressed, those on the receiving end of the call tend to get spun up and take control of the situation – even though they aren’t present. This results in a backseat driver mentality and often interferes with the necessary work that needs to get done. Third, and perhaps most important, it amps yourself up – and not necessarily in a good way. Your body releases cortisol, other chemical reactions occur, and though some of the reaction such as release of adrenaline can be helpful, too much and your body will “attack” you and prevent you from your peak performance. Stress becomes a detriment.

Let’s put this in the business work environment (or even with your family life). You’re the CEO of a startup, the bills are piling up, the financing is running out, customers are dropping off and payroll issues are looming. I’m not here to suggest how to handle this situation. I’m only recommending how you handle yourself. Remember the key take-a-away: calm breeds calm. Take caution when deciding what level of emotion you demonstrate to those who surround you. Use the appropriate amount and type of emotion to motivate others by first understanding what resonates best with them individually. If you’re always running around with your hair on fire, I promise you’re stressing those around you out and diminishing performance.
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CPO Branch Chief
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AKA "Don't ever let em see you sweat."
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Capt Seid Waddell
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Edited 6 y ago
I never heard it put that way, but that is a quality of the best leaders I have served under.

And I saw this in combat one time. At about 0300 one night in 1970 an aircraft called in to Panama Control on Guard with his call sign and one chick, and gave his position about 14 klicks north of Da Nang.

I was not familiar with his call sign, so I asked him to say type aircraft. He responded that he had no aircraft; he was in a chute along with his back seat.

I scrambled rescue and vectored them to his position. At one point, he said "Stand by Panama, it's about to get busy". This was followed by the sounds of a splash and thrashing in water.

When the Jolly Green was approaching the pilot’s position they asked the pilot if he could see the spotlight, and the pilot could and gave him directions to his position.

The pilot never sounded like he was any more tense than someone would be sitting at a desk and passing on information, although the sound of water splashing spoke otherwise of his situation.

One would like to think that one would react like that pilot when the chips were down, but we never know until it happens. I think you fight like you train.
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SMSgt Dr. G. A. Thomas
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Be patient or you'll be one:)
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