Blog Archives

5 Tips to be the Super Best Discusser


I spend a lot of time considering what I will say, I speak from inspiration most often, and I get inspired easily and sporadically.  This is probably one of the most difficult personality combinations to manage when it comes to having a conversation so on behalf of everyone like me, I’m just going to start off with a big sorry to you!

The problem with this is that while you’re talking to me, you’ve reminded me of the perfect story that you just have to hear.  And sometimes, while you’re talking, I’m considering this great new idea that will fix everything you see wrong.  Boy oh boy, are YOU going to be sooooooo glad you started talking to me because now I have all kinds of great things to say! discussion-group

Well, at least that’s what I use to do. And if I’m being honest, what I still struggle with. Maybe you do too. If that’s the case, here’s a few helpful reminders on how communicate, instead of just talk.

Wait your turn. 

Does that seem simple? Good. It’s supposed to be. Anytime I speak with someone and they are talking at about 100 miles a minute, I purposefully limit my input. Some people are exaggerated story tellers, and that gives the rest of us a lot of time to tune out.  Because they like providing detail, they’re accustomed to being interrupted, so they’re flying through their thoughts to make sure they get it all out before you or I try to intercede.

Not to mention that every time I am interrupted, the first thing I realize is that whomever is interrupting me wasn’t listening at all, but rather planning their response before I can even lay out the problem. If that annoys you half as much as it does me then you’ll agree how important it is to wait your turn.

Allow space for silence. 

If you’re not thinking about your own responses the entire time someone is speaking to you, then there’s inevitably going to be space for silence. Sometimes that space is a moment, sometimes it’s a little longer. Don’t be uncomfortable with pauses, not every break needs to be filled.

Speak strategically.

In many cases, the less you speak, the more people listen. If I save my voice for things that are truly important, I’m taken more seriously and people tend to pay attention when I have input. (Of course this works best if you have something constructive to add, but that’s a different post…)

Create silence on purpose. 

In the same regard, the less you speak, the more you will hear. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been confused, speechless, or annoyed and allowed a little silence to do my dirty work. When you don’t respond in places people are expecting, they’ll keep talking. Do it again, they’ll keep talking.

You’ll be amazed at what you will uncover. It’s also a fun little trick for those more difficult folks in your life…sometimes your lack of response let’s people run through an entire gamut of emotions and it’s really something quite fascinating to see. It’s almost like watching someone have your argument for you. I highly recommend it.

Let some ideas go.

This is mostly helpful if you’re like me.  You may have the most incredible story, example, motto, or meme to share. If it’s not your turn to contribute to the discussion, let it go. Not only in waiting your turn, but in considering abandoning your example altogether.

Maybe it’s important enough to come back to, but often times it’s perfect in that moment and when that moment passes and the discussion progresses, your inability to move forward past that one “great thing” will leave you wallowing in a moment of discussion that’s completely over, and you’ll have missed most things since. Let it go so you can actively hear what someone is telling you and know that there will be plenty more perfect interjections to go around.

Remember, your chance to shine isn’t in the moments you have the best zinger or illustration; they’re in the moments your relevant thoughts are heard.


Time to Get Engaged

If you’ve read my previous post, you know I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am going to engage my non-emergency minded colleagues and volunteers.  I’m always thinking about that because I know that if I can get everyone involved, resiliency skyrockets!


Engage!  Colleagues, that is.

This past week, I participated in facilitating a disaster behavioral health seminar and something occurred to me…they totally nailed the engagement concept!

It seems we spend a lot of time encouraging folks to take Incident Command System (ICS) courses, learn our FEMA ways, and give our jargon a special place in their hearts.  Now, I absolutely believe this is a necessity for responding to disaster.  Especially when we’re asking folks to become acclimated to a field they know nothing of and connect with on a basis of once to never.  It might seem foreign, but ICS is where it all starts!

There’s just one thing we forget to do sometimes.  To teach people where they fit in, why they fit there, and how to fulfill their specific role.

Does this go here?

At the seminar last week, they didn’t get lost in the weeds of leadership.  And what I mean is this – ICS tells us how to lead, what the overarching structure is and a broad overview of the ins and outs of organizing emergency response.  We have to know this, but we need to know more.  We need each block of that organizational chart to function independently and completely to make each branch, section and dotted line as efficient as possible.

Our speakers and our participants acknowledged the inner workings of ICS, but then did something wonderful with the information.  They recognized where they fall in the system and how they can fulfill the role they’d be given.  They focused on how to be consistent, work together, and make their branch of incident response as efficient, effective and generally as rad as possible.  Yeah, I said it.

It’s safe to say that most of our colleagues and volunteer members won’t have to lead during an emergency, so we have to meet people where they’re at when it comes to emergency information.

If I don’t make ICS applicable, if I don’t go that one step further and say, “You are here, and this is how you make your role successful so that others may be successful,” I am failing those I am asking to serve, and I’m failing those they will support.  And I really, really hate to fail.

You know how I feel, Twitter fail whale.

Not bringing the information to where people are at and giving them a reason to care and a way to be successful leaves us talking to an empty room.  And I don’t think that’s just in emergency management.


For more information:

If you haven’t completed and Incident Command Systems courses, visit FEMA’s Independent Study website, and start with ICS 100 (b, most likely, but there are equivalents tailored to certain types of organizations).  Then give IS 700.a a go for an introduction to the National Incident Management System.  These are the basics to get you started!  If you love that, explore what other ICS courses FEMA has to offer, and in the meantime, locate your agency or local emergency manager and find out what your role might be and how to get ready for it.