A Calming Influence

Projecting CalmnessI received a great compliment from one of my patients recently. He told me he had been so nervous about his upcoming cataract surgery that he had been unable to sleep for a week before it. The day of his surgery he said he was beside himself with anxiety when he arrived at the OR. We brought him in for his procedure and when I greeted him and introduced myself, (it is hard to recognize people in the OR as we are wearing scrubs, OR caps and masks) so I always say to my patients “Hi it’s Dr. Anderson you probably can’t recognize me as I am in my party hat and pajamas”, he said somehow the way I spoke to him allowed him to relax. He told me my voice was calm yet confident and he got the feeling right away that everything would be just fine.

I have always tried to put myself in the position of the patient and think about how nervous I would be if someone was about to cut into my eye. I therefore always make it my mandate to see that people feel comfortable and informed every step of the way. I talk to them constantly and even if something is more difficult than expected or the situation becomes tense I practice taking a deep breath and if possible trying to come across as more calm to make sure that they will not worry.

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I think as leaders in medicine, business, politics or sports it is so important that we approach with a confident and calming voice. Not only does it allow the people that are counting on us and looking up to us to feel relaxed, it actually improves performance.

This concept of a calming influence hit home for me a couple of years ago. I was flying home from a conference in Chicago and I had changed my flight to get home sooner than expected. The weather on the flight was horrendous and it was a bumpy ride almost the entire way. As we approached the landing runway at Vancouver International the rain was driving against the windows of the plane and the cloud cover hung so low that all I could see out the window was a fog of dark grey. We finally emerged below the cloud cover and I could see the runway. It appeared we were about 200 feet off the ground. Then all the sudden the pilot gunned it and the plane went vertical again straight up in the air. We were climbing quickly back into the dense clouds and the driving rain.

My stomach was in my throat and my heart was pounding so fast I could feel it in my ears. I was gripped with anxiety, fearing the worst and very frightened. At that point, the pilot came over the loud speaker. His voice was calm, slow and confident and he said and I quote “Sorry about that sudden change of direction folks, there was a little traffic on the runway and we are going take another pass and land the plane when it’s clear. Sit back and relax we will be on the ground in just a few minutes.” It wasn’t so much what he said but how he said it that made me feel more relaxed and confident that everything was going to be OK. When I got off the plane I thanked him for his quick reaction, for getting us home safely and for calming me down.

As leaders and influencers, how calm we remain determines how calm those around us remain. Never forget the impact your words and how you say them can have on those around you.

How do you make sure you are projecting calmness in your workplace?

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