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Pandora's avatar

Do nerves of steel come from confidence or security, or from knowledge?

Asked by Pandora (29733points) May 21st, 2010

I heard this 5 year olds confident call to 911and she sounded so mature for her age during an emergency. link
(Sorry for the commercial before the video but there is no way I know around it.)
Any way it had me wondering what makes some people do well in an emergency and others fall apart? When my father had to go to the hospital I had to make all the calls and decisions. My older sister couldn’t deal with the situation. She didn’t know who to call or even what to do. She is otherwise extremely level headed but in a crisis she gets confused and irrational. I thought I would fall apart in the caos but I didn’t and made all the right calls and held it together till he was in the hospital, then I fell apart.
So why do you think some people are cool in a crisis and others panic?

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18 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t think anyone knows which he or she will be until an actual crisis arises. I’m not even sure the same person always reacts the same way.

Both in work situations and in sudden family emergencies, I’ve been the cool one who started giving orders (without any special authority) while everyone else was standing around paralyzed, and people followed my orders. But I have no idea why I did it. If someone else had taken charge before I did, I probably would have obeyed them. I also think (but I don’t know) that I’d have stayed paralyzed if it had been a public emergency.

When there’s no one present who has actually been trained to deal with crisis situations, maybe it’s just a matter of who gets unfrozen first.

Pandora's avatar

I suppose it has a lot to do with the flight or fight response but some people get hysterical and never come to their senses. So I have to wonder if upbring or confidence or just enough general knowledge in dealing with an emergency is what makes the difference.
BTW, I’ve seen enough of your answers to guess that its probably your confidence that aids you during emergencies. ;)

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t know, @Pandora. Maybe, but I’d have been inclined to guess the opposite: that dealing with emergencies has gained me some measure of confidence.

perspicacious's avatar

Usually, one can hold it together in a crisis when they know there is no one else to handle things. I’ve pretty much always been pretty cool in a crisis. I said pretty much. I have fallen apart a couple of times myself when my kids were involved.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

In the military, it’s train, train, train until you automatically do a certain thing no matter what is going on around you. What some mistake for bravery is actually the result of operant conditioning. This five year old’s actions are remarkable; some people are naturally unflappable.

E_v4V2v_3's avatar

I find in certain moments it is the flight or fight response. Not exactly 100% to that context of words, but some people will rise where the others will fall.Proper knowledge and correct use of it can create high amounts of confidence. I feel if you are confident you create your own boundary of security thus why in my opinion, insecure people often have low self-confidence.

One interesting point if I may add. Is that this child is not cluttered with adult randomness, fear,and panic.Many adults are surprisingly unable to handle situations simply because you are an adult,well, really can amount to nothing sometimes.(Where you might assume otherwise) She learned this and seen the situation and did what was necessary. Good for her this will surely carry on through other things in her life.

That is just a little side theory you might say I had, apologies if that seemed to go off-topic.

The rest I’m in complete agreement with @stranger_in_a_strange_land Training. Excellent point,sir.

Cruiser's avatar

Nerves of steel in your scenario is a perception of doing the right thing in an emergency and comes from knowledge. That is why my kids are trained in 1st aid and self defense as there is really no time to think in an emergency and proper training prepares you to just do it without thinking hence the perception of nerves of steel.

I had that experience as a life guard when we pulled a guy off the bottom of the pool who had zero vitals. We just did what we were trained to do at that critical moment and saved his life. Afterwards you do sort of freak out as to WTH just happened but during the life saving process you just do…it it automatic.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Cruiser Exactly. You freak out after the battle, not during.

Pandora's avatar

@E_v4V2v_3 What did you mean about adult randomness? Did you mean that she learned that things can happen suddenly to any one?
@stranger_in_a_strange_land I wonder if she was in the girl scouts. And yes she was quite remarkable. I’ve heard panic in peoples voices in 911 calls and she is so cool. Even nurturing in her questions to her dad when she was asked to ask him for information to relay.

tinyfaery's avatar

Being able to act for me has to do with confidence, knowledge and stupidity, dependant upon the situation. I’m confident in the knowledge I have and too stupid to realize I might have more confidence than knowledge.

Pandora's avatar

@tinyfaery Interesting point. So if I get what your saying correctly, your saying that ignorance can also be a contributing factor?

tinyfaery's avatar

Yes. At least for me.

Pandora's avatar

@tinyfaery True, I can see how ignorance with that little girl may have kept her cool headed. She probably wasn’t thinking, dad could die so that may have aided her in not freaking out.

Silhouette's avatar

Some people let their emotions get the better of them. The first wave of panic washes over them and they lose their footing. When I was faced with the situation you described two of my family members held it together, we did it by dealing with what is, we didn’t have time to deal with what ifs. Our world got very small and focused until the crisis was over, the others worlds grew to such an enormous size they were overwhelmed and they panicked.

john65pennington's avatar

Its in their DNA to be leaders, to take over and handle a situation. this is why most police applicants are never accepted as police officers. one or two may slip through the cracks, but the majority are never given a badge. its lack of ability to focus, during a given situation.

tinyfaery's avatar

I guess that’s why there are so many unnecessary police shootings. Uh…no.

le_inferno's avatar

Omg..that little girl was so effing adorable. What a cutie.

Pandora's avatar

@le_inferno I loved the way her voice would change when she talked to her dad and asked him questions. Her voice would be more tender like the way a mom talks to her kids. Though really loved, “So far so good”. And that she could clearly pronounce ambulance. LOL She was awesome.

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