The flight attendant begins dolling out the obligatory, in fact, federally mandated, pre-flight safety instructions. If you’re a frequent flyer, your situational awareness is probably pretty low. You know the routine and it’s boring. If you’re an infrequent flyer, the monotone, or should I say mono-drone, voice of the lead flight attendant is enough to make you bury your eyes deep into the sky magazine. But, on this flight, something’s different.
The flight attendant begins by saying:
“Our airline employs some of the safest pilots in the industry. Unfortunately, our flight today doesn’t have any of them so you’d better fasten your seat belt and pay close attention to what I’m about to lay down. There may be fifty ways to leave your lover but there are only six ways to leave this airplane.“
All eyes and ears were immediately fixated on the lead flight attendant. Trust me, I was on the flight and witnessed it first-hand. This was one of the best stand-up comedic routines I’ve seen in a long time. I enjoyed it. Wait…did I just say I enjoyed a pre-flight briefing?
What made a speech I’ve heard over 500 times so damn interesting? There are two explanations, both rooted deep in cognitive neuroscience. First, the speech was unexpected. We listen with bated anticipation to hear things that surprise us. That’s why talk show hosts and newscasters bait listeners with phrases like: “When we come back we’re going to show you an amazing video you’re not going to want to miss” and we wait to see it.
Second, it was emotional. Emotional messages (and it doesn’t matter what emotion the messages invoke) not only capture and keep our attention, but they help in the uptake and storage of those messages into long-term memory. That’s right, you tend to remember and recall emotional messages and events with much more accuracy than boring messages and boring events. How well does it work? That flight attendant greeting I shared with you was from a flight I took in 2005. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Ok…for you instructors out there who are sharing important, life-saving messages – remember: make portions of your message unexpected and use emotions. Both will not only keep attention, but they will also help in learning and recall. Anyone who has attended one of my programs knows I use a healthy dose of both. The results are truly win-win. The attendees are satisfied with their day of learning on how lessons from cognitive neuroscience can improve responder safety, and I have the satisfaction of knowing those lessons are going to stick with the attendees for a long time.
The mission of Situational Awareness Matters is simple: Help first responders see the bad things coming…in time to change the outcome.
Safety begins with SA!
The content for this post was taken directly from the highly-acclaimed programs, Fifty Ways to Kill a First Responder and Mental Management of Emergencies. These programs have been presented to more than 23,000 public safety providers from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
If your department or association is interested in hosting a program to improve situational awareness and decision-making under stress, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at: 612-548-4424.