It was 3:00 am, and I was already tired. “You’re needed in room 2 right away.” My on-call shift at the hospital had already been much busier than usual, and I certainly didn’t need one more emergency.

The lady in room 2 had delivered a baby just over an hour before. As I walked into her room I saw an awful lot of blood, and her nurse desperately trying to stop her hemorrhaging. It took me only a few seconds to assess the situation and realize that the only way to save her life was to perform immediate surgery.

It was important that people listen to me. I took a quick moment to explain to the patient what we needed to do. Her nurse knew what was needed and began getting her ready. Then I quickly walked from her room to the nurse’s station and announced, “We need to go to the operating room NOW!”

I quickly briefed the anesthesiologist on the patient’s situation, and he interrupted preparing for an epidural another labor patient had requested. The charge nurse sent an assistant downstairs to the laboratory to pick up some blood for an emergency transfusion, and then went to help prepare the operating room. The OR assistant opened the surgical instruments we would need. The unit secretary called the backup nurse on call to come and help with the other laboring patients. At least six people immediately stopped what they were doing and focused their full attention on helping to save this patient’s life.

Thankfully the procedure was a success. Less than an hour later I was explaining to the patient’s mother what had happened, and how her daughter would now be just fine.

When I made that announcement at the nurse’s station everybody immediately jumped into action. I didn’t have to threaten them, whip them, or reason with them. They just started moving. Yes, they were highly trained – and I’m glad they were! But it was my statement they acted on.

What was it that allowed my simple statement to generate such an immediate response in so many people? If you have these same 4 elements at play in your life, other people will listen to you as well.

  1. I had a relationship with others on the team. They knew I wouldn’t call for such immediate action unless it was a true emergency. I had treated each of them with respect in the past, and that created equity I could draw on when a crisis occurred.
  2. I was prepared. My training and experience gave me the confidence to call for action when it was needed. I knew what I needed to do, and the others on the team were confident I was able to handle the situation.
  3. My call for action was backed up by reality. If I had said the same thing when there wasn’t a true emergency I’d have no credibility the next time I needed to call for help. The facts others could see supported my decision and call to action.
  4. My actions backed up the urgency in my voice. I wasn’t sitting back ordering others to do something I wasn’t arms-deep in myself. I was moving as quickly as anyone else in doing what needed to be done.

Do you want people to listen to you? Do the same thing:

  • Treat others with respect. They’re the ones who will respond when you need help.
  • Invest in your experience. It’s what will make you confident in a crisis.
  • Be honest about reality. Make sure the facts line up with what you are saying.
  • Get involved. Start doing exactly what you expect others to be doing.

And who knows what difference you can make in the world by doing so?

Your Turn: Do other people tend to listen to what you say? Why do you think they do, or don’t? Leave a comment below. 

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