“Just take one call at a time,” my supervisors would say before I was about to start another shift on the 9-1-1 lines, offering a way to (hopefully) prevent mistakes and complaints on the phones.
It’s actually great advice.
Taking one call at a time means that you meet the current call as if it were the first, without the years of conditioning that happens from taking thousands of calls in a career.
Great advice, but much easier said than done.
I was always amazed by a friend of mine who would meet every non-emergency call with a cheery, “What are you reporting?” Smiles in her voice and all. This after nearly 30 years on the job, too!
I asked her what her secret was. I had been on the job less than three years and my annoyance with callers was already palpable.
She said that she was happy to be where she was. She enjoyed the company of her coworkers, and she took pleasure in providing whatever form of assistance she could to the person at the other end of her line.
Because she wasn’t hoping for things to be different or wishing to be somewhere else, she was free to treat each caller with attention and care.
My cynical and skeptical mind thought, “Must be nice,” as I contemplated a life where I didn’t have to struggle to be happy over being discontent—I could always be happy and friendly because it was my only setting!
This cynical thought is an oversimplification of what the perpetually sunny, like my friend, go through, however.
She certainly could choose to focus on the drama and the difficulties above all else. But, after choosing happiness for so long, she’s stuck in this mode. Isn’t that a great mode to be stuck in?!
Here’s a quick little experiment to help you move into the mode of taking one call at a time. The next time you’re feeling frazzled, notice how many things you have on your mind or in front of you. You only have so much willpower, and then you need to recharge.
A surefire method to get a break between thoughts and recharge is to use the 5-5-5 breathing method.
It goes like this: Inhale for a count of five. Hold for a count of five. Exhale for a count of five. Repeat that ten times. In fact, go ahead and recharge right now.
If you’re at your console, put everything aside—your magazines, books, crocheting, playing cards—everything, including this book.
For the next 5-10 minutes, do just one thing. Sit there and tend to each call with the utmost attention. Between calls, notice your breath or your thoughts or just relax your body.
Whenever you access breath or body awareness, you bypass the part of your brain that creates all of your stress: the thinking mind. When you put the thinking mind in neutral, you’ll find that you have more room to maneuver.
Use the 5-5-5 method any time you have a window of opportunity. Between calls. Between radio transmissions. When you’re in your car. When you’re in line at the grocery store.
Notice how you can “take one call at a time” wherever you are today.
About the Author:
Adam Timm is the author of the #1 bestselling book, Stress Is Optional! How to Kick the Habit, and the cofounder of The Healthy Dispatcher, a law enforcement training company that offers stress resilience, communication and leadership classes designed for Emergency Dispatchers.
A 9-1-1 telecommunicator for over a decade, he brings his stories from the frontline into his writings and classes. His second book, Dispatcher Stress: 50 Lessons on Beating the Burnout, is out now.