Between emotion and other factors, sometimes people make issues out of things they know nothing about, or they fail to consider the facts before they resort to anger. So I kept that partially in mind when I saw the headline about the Swedish fire service “expert” who spoke at FRI this week. Obviously, even the headlines suggested a certain amount of anger from individuals in the American fire service about his statements.
While the headline of the linked article hit me in the gut a little, I was prepared to read something that I would not agree with, nor could ever agree with. In fact, before I even read the article, I already made up my mind that this guy was some academic who had never actually fought a fire before, and now he was going to tell us what we are doing wrong. Before making a statement, however, I actually read the article and you know what? In some of the points he made, he is absolutely right.
I don’t equate the comments he made on RIC (people were making unsafe decisions way before we had to come up with a way to save them from those decisions) as being anything other than his observation. While it may seem to him that people drive more recklessly since they feel safer in their cars, I think there are a few other factors at play when we suggest that firefighters have more comfort from having a RIC present, so they are comfortable taking more risk. I think just the understanding of the fact that a two-man or four-man RIC isn't likely going to get you out of a situation keeps me from going down that slippery slope. But while there are plenty of other things to agree with, those items are debate for another day. What I wanted to talk about was our reactions to the headline as compared to the level of “emotional intelligence” or commonly known as “EQ” (in contrast to IQ) that most people have and how EQ relates to certain events.
I want to keep this brief, but it really plays out in society as I see rational individuals presented with particular situations and instead of reacting to them rationally, they relate to them emotionally instead, and fail to grasp the true issues in play. Instead of seeking understanding, they presume their perception of an event to be the “facts” and are reluctant to see the alternative points of view. Some individuals with higher EQ can be educated, or shown the other views, and then make decisions based on those facts. Others with a little lower EQ may go grudgingly toward understanding. Some go kicking and screaming, and some are completely irrational and unwilling to understand. Obviously, we all score one way or another along that continuum and where we place in there helps us cope with issues that may run counter to our beliefs.
EQ also permits us to temper our behavior and allows us to think before speaking. We have people who frankly, engage their mouths (or fingers, via the keyboard) before comprehending the ramifications of what it is they are saying. While the statements they make may have elements of truth, these statements are “their” truth, and should also involve a little thinking about other viewpoints as well before being said.
Those of you who have known me for a long time may be laughing right now. I admit, I have said my share of things that I have come to regret later. But as I have gotten older, and hopefully, wiser, I have also brought some life experience and education to the table. Over the last fifteen years or so I have begun to understand that not only are most issues presented to us with only the surface points showing, there is usually plenty of time to blame and yell later; first I need to dig deeper and get the real story.
I challenge you to read what was said by the expert with an open mind, and ask yourself, is he wrong? Is he right? But more importantly, ask yourself about your own personal reaction to his statements. Reluctance to change because a situation is presented differently than the way you think, even in the face of facts that indicate truth, indicate not loyalty or tradition, but stubbornness and ignorance. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Get the facts, sort them out, and THEN make a decision to speak. It’s a whole lot less stressful for you and others who surround you that way.