Three Steps of Psychological First Aid: Listen, Protect, and Connect

Communicating is difficult in the best of the times. In times of crisis, leaders are called to action. What leaders say and do and how they communicate rallies the team, vendors, and clients or leaves them feeling confused, exhausted, and hopelessly lost. FEMA’s Psychological First Aid offer three steps to communicate effectively when it matters most.
Source: FEMA

Step One. Listen

  • Notice your team. Are they productive? Curious? Quiet?
  • Paraphrase with meaning to show you are listening and to connect with empathy.
  • Remain available to listen. Do they know when and how to reach you?
  • Beware forced discussion. They interfere with recovery and resilience.

Step Two: Protect

  • Provide information updates.
  • Answer questions honestly.
  • Be authentic. It’s okay not to know.
  • Invite discussion.
  • Be patient.
  • Beware pushy inquiries as they diminish trust.

Step  Three: Connect

  • Communicate regularly.
  • Use phone, email, text, video, audio and in-person meetings when safe.
  • Provide ways to keep in touch.
  • Offer access to resources.

Effective communication is the foundation of these three steps of psychological first aid. What we say matters. Here are some phrases to avoid and say.

Avoid saying:

  • I understand.
  • Don’t feel bad.
  • You’re strong, you will get through this.
  • Don’t cry. Don’t worry. (Feelings are okay.)
  • It’s kismet, fate, God’s will.
  • It could be worse.
  • At least, you still have…
  • Everything will be okay.

Instead, say:

  • Is it ok if I help you with…?
  • I’m sorry for your pain.
  • I’, so sorry this has happened.
  • What do you need?
  • We will create a plan that works for us.


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© 2021 Dr. Red Shoe.
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