20 June 2017 by Rachel Paling

I am noticing more and more just how sensitized I am to other people´s reactions. As I now understand what happens to the brain when people overreact, whether in rage or tears or hysterical laughter (amygdala hijack) or when people are in panic, it is almost as if I have developed a sixth sense for people in “a state”. And I know that all the teachers who have trained with me are also becoming more and more sensitized and in this way, whether we are coaching in our jobs or not, we are in fact able to really help other people who need shifting from the panic state into “normal rational” brain state.

In fact, last weekend I saw just how much we can help. Last Saturday, I went to Barcelona Airport to pick up a friend who was visiting me for the weekend. I parked my hire car and walked into the terminal and, as it had been this friend´s birthday recently, I started to have a look in some of the terminal shops for a present. As I was walking past one shop, a little old lady was sitting on the display area, staring into the distance like a startled rabbit. Just looking at her, it was as if I could sense that she was in a “full fight or flight” panic state. I immediately stopped and asked her if she was OK in English. She started saying in broken English

“No, ticket lost, no money, fly now Stockholm, no ticket”.

I crouched down to her level and looked her squarely and calmly in the eye and asked her

“What is your language?”

“Russian, Swedish, I live in Stockholm”.

“Do you understand me in English?”

“Yes, some English.”

“OK. Stay calm. Breath. No money – you lost money?”

I spoke with her firmly in pigeon English to simplify the language and try to understand how I could help. I could not understand if they had stolen her money, but I understood she had to fly to Stockholm and she could not find her ticket, but she had her passport and her visa card. I quickly took her up to departures and looked what time the Stockholm flight was, boarding was in 40 minutes. I raced her to Vueling information desk and spoke to them in Spanish. They told me that she had already been there and tried to buy a ticket, but her VISA card was not working. Firmly I said she had a ticket already and had lost it and could they not look and try to buy her a new ticket. At that moment, the girl behind the counter clicked (and Lord knows why she had not clicked before when the old lady had already been there before!) and realized that if she could find the booking of the lost flight ticket, she could print out the boarding pass. She quickly found the old lady´s reservation and told us to go quickly to the Vueling last minute desk to get the boarding pass and she also ordered airport wheelchair assistance to get the old lady to the gate. At that point, we were racing against time and the old lady was getting more and more nervous and I kept telling her “Stay calm, you will get the plane, breath, breath, focus, look at me, breath.” We raced to get the boarding pass, the old lady hanging onto me for dear life, we picked it up and then waited nervously for the wheelchair. I kept saying to her “Calm, breath” and slowly she started to get calmer. While we were waiting, one ground staff from Vueling came to tell us that “we could not wait there”. Very firmly and in perfect Spanish I told them that we had been told to wait there by another ground staff, so we were not going to move and we were waiting for the wheelchair. Just imagine that this old lady had been waiting there alone and someone suddenly comes over to shout at her in another language which she could not understand, telling her “Not to do something which someone else told her to do!” It really shows how speaking the language gives the opportunity to defend oneself and explain firmly, calmly and in an assertive manner!

The wheelchair came with an extremely slow, phlegmatic lad pushing it. Again in Spanish, I said, “I think you need to go faster and get this lady to the plane…..” “Why?” was his immediate retort! Hardly containing my anger I replied in Spanish “Because the plane is leaving in 30 minutes and she has to board it…..”

The old lady had tears in her eyes and was thanking me and I left watching her being taken to security. I could only hope that the airport staff would get her on the plane and that she was able to then fully calm down and get her “emotional brain” back into a calm normalized state again.

The whole episode has really made me think:

1)     Neurolanguage Coaches, who have trained with me and my approach, all have the adequate training to understand brain reactions and all of them are able to assist and help anyone, anywhere who is having a “limbic panic reaction”. I know that some of my coaches even use their knowledge and techniques with their children. One was recently telling me that she has just moved to Japan from Belgium and her little boy was having panic reactions to the move and she calmly explained to him about the brain and what happens and this has greatly helped her little boy to observe himself and understand, feel calmer and adapt to such a big change in his little life.

2)     I strongly encourage all my Neurolanguage Coaches, to always be alert and sensitive to people who are having that “brain” reaction and be ready to help anyone, anywhere – not only when we are working as Neurolanguage Coaches, but also in our daily lives.

3)     I strongly recommend that airports should have a special service with sensitized and specially trained staff to help in particular older people and lost children to move out of their panic state into calm and rational. These staff should receive special training on how the brain reacts, so that they are extremely aware and able to handle these situations better, instead of shouting and thinking that if they speak louder, then people will understand them! If someone is in panic, the louder you shout the more you push them into panic!

4)     I strongly recommend companies to understand that, when it comes to training staff, they should use “neuroeducators” who are able to sense when learners are focused and attentive or when the learner is “shut down” to really ensure that the company is getting a training that is producing business impact and efficiency.

5)     I strongly recommend to everyone – understand your own brains more, understand your own reactions. By understanding ourselves, we can then understand others and how they react and ultimately, we can move into focused solutions and spring-board away from panic. And in light of the situation in the world today, where we are all being constantly pushed  into “permanent alert and living on the edge”, it would be amazing to think that no matter where, no matter when, we are all able to help one another and in particular help each other to remain calm and with a “normalized” brain state at all times.