The casual response to a crisis:
- Stage 1: NOTHING is going to happen
- Stage 2: SOMETHING may happen, but we won’t do anything about it
- Stage 3: Maybe we SHOULD do something about it, but there’s nothing we CAN do
- Stage 4: Maybe there’s something we COULD have done — but it’s too late now
How do you respond to a crisis? Some freak out. Others are indifferent. We see these various reactions with the coronavirus. Some resist and doubt the seriousness of the situation – as humorously illustrated by the above video. Others are extremely alarmed. Eagerly, they take all the precautionary procedures.
The range of reactions to crisis is based partly on personality and partly on culture. I want to talk about the cultural aspect. Years ago Sherwood Lingenfelter introduced ‘crisis orientation’ as a cultural dynamic. Lingenfelter describes these two approaches as follows:
*For more cultural values go to ‘Common Cultural Values’
The contrast between these two orientations was illustrated for me during Y2K. Remember that “crisis” when the year 1999 became 2000? We lived in Moscow at the time. Taking the impending doom seriously, my wife made gallons of soup, I bought gallons of fresh water, an LP gas space heater and several other supplies. We felt like we were ready to live off the grid for about two months.
Our Russian friends made no preparations for Y2K. They thought we were nuts and did not hesitate to tell us so. They said there was no reason to prepare, that no matter what, life would go on, and that even the worst case scenario did not sound like anything they weren’t use to already. “What could be worse than life as we know it now? Stuff shutting down can only be good”, they sarcastically said.
Come January 1, 2000, and it seemed like our non-crisis oriented Russian friends were right. Our crisis orientation had led us to invest our time and energy completely unnecessarily. Of course, had Y2K turned out to be an actual problem, our efforts would likely have paid off.
The Coronavirus Crisis
Browsing Facebook, I notice both crisis and non-crisis perspectives. Crisis orientation dominates. Notice all the posts linking to articles about the latest news and procedures. These are crisis oriented people keeping others informed. Seems like Facebook is especially suitable to crisis oriented people eager to get the word out.
Then there are a minority of non-crisis oriented people who complain about the inconvenience of the restrictions and express doubt about the severity of the virus. Most everyone comes around to take the situation seriously (as I think we all should) but the non-crisis oriented folks are much slower to do so.
Are You Crisis or Noncrisis Oriented?
As an American, I think it is fair to say that my culture is crisis oriented. I don’t think that we are quite as crisis oriented as Germany, Japan, or Singapore; but we are a long way from non-crisis oriented cultures such as Russia, Britain or Jamaica.
Based on my personality, I think I am moderately non-crisis oriented. As a result, I feel some inner tension with my own culture which I think has a tendency to overreact to the latest news scare.
- Would you say that you are personally ‘crisis’ or ‘noncrisis oriented?’
- What about your culture? Would you say it is ‘crisis’ or ‘noncrisis oriented?’
- What do you notice about this dynamic during the current coronavirus crisis?
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