You must remember in any crisis situation that you were born with two ears, and only one mouth. You are meant to listen more than you speak. While we discussed the idea of listening for what is not being said, you must also strive to listen more, and talk less.
The most glaring place where this point has been made is in my personal life, in relationships. I am a problem solver. I think and create, and resolve, and move, and adapt, and overcome. I am constantly scanning; I am constantly seeking to pick up on changes in my environment and looking to resolve any confrontation near me. In the airport, in the grocery store, in the restaurant, in traffic, wherever I am, I am always on the alert for potential crisis, as it is my nature, my job, to resolve it. To fix it. To provide the answer; directly, immediately, clearly, and absolutely. In LE you are expected to immediately threat discriminate and mitigate the issue. Application of this tactic in my relationships, is an abject failure, 90% of the time.
She presents me with her “problem”. Right away my mind kicks into gear seeking an immediate solution to her problem. It believes it has found an effective (if not the most effective) answer. That answer then immediately passes from the deep recesses of my mammalian brain (likely the amygdala–fight or flight discrimination is key at this point J) and into my cognitive brain and convinces my motor neurons to place the thought into words and immediately provide my partner with ”the answer” which often sounds like “Well, I think you should…..”
You readers will immediately recognize the problem with this situation. I have undoubtedly failed to listen to the complete situation, or “listen to what is not being said” and reacted too quickly with a verbal response. Rather than use my two ears to listen and ensure that I fully understand the situation before responding, I instead open my mouth to quite literally insert my entire foot, ankle, shin, calf, and knee.
As in any crisis de-escalation encounter, the amount in which you are listening is likely, not enough. You are most likely talking too much. You are very likely convincing yourself that you know the answer, and that if they would only listen to you, the situation would be resolved. It has long ago been established that persons in crisis most often simply wish to feel as though they have been “heard”.
Above all else, as human beings, we want to be respected and listened to. If as a responder, we are failing to do this first task, we are far behind the eight-ball from the start. You don’t have to worry about using the right technique, or finding the right phrase to use, etc. as you have yet to even fully “hear” the individual standing before you. By failing to actually hear them, you are not capable of finding an answer that is likely to work or resolve the issue for the long term. Sure, you may offer something that is somewhat of a temporary fix, but the individual has not fully expressed the emotion or thought and therefore it does one of two things:
One, it retreats back, goes into hiding and the person shuts down and determines that they are not “safe” to express themselves fully with you (which leads to all kinds of resentment and issues later)
Two, it causes them to retaliate at an even higher level of escalation as they do not feel respected or valued in the moment and are driven to operate from a “this person is a “threat” to me and my feelings” and therefore escalate out of a psychological need to defend or protect.
Both options are detrimental to the process of communication and de-escalation and can be prevented entirely, of just being an excellent listener and pausing before you respond, no matter what you even actually say. Even if your response is “wrong”, you are being a great listener, which everyone truly wants to experience when they have emotions to share.