How NOT to Manage a Crisis

Crisis is something that all of us will encounter at some point in our lives. Whether it comes in the form of small "c" crisis or a major life-changing event, our ability to manage these crises will bear a huge impact on us. Should we fail to do so, the consequences can be dire...

One of the biggest components in managing a crisis is to avoid it all together, while understanding that not all crises are preventable and some are completely inevitable. For many, the death of a loved one creates a state of crisis for family and loved ones. But we all know this to be a fact of life and we should therefore prepare accordingly. On the other hand, a crisis of financial ruin is something that we can at least hedge against with good fiscal planning and responsible budgeting.

As Savage Gentlemen, we can often find ourselves in a position where we are  called to lead or manage in a crisis. In these moments, our ability to communicate calmly, concisely, and compassionately can quite literally be the difference between living and dying.

Thankfully for us, in times of crisis there are well established protocols for effective communication. These are tried and true methods that have been documented for centuries and form the foundation for crisis management.


For an excellent case study on how to NOT manage a crisis, we need only look to current events. Regardless of your political stance, we can all agree that the past 2 years have been one huge debacle, and we have all seen first hand some perfect examples of the ways NOT to manage a crisis or properly communicate it.

To dive deeper into this subject, we brought on a returning guest to our podcast who just so happens to be getting his doctorate in complex systems and global crisis management. As such, he has some unique and insightful perspective on the matter.

Once a former adventure tour guide, Ryan Palmer started his career in "phoenix tourism" in Central and South America, establishing the infrastructure for tourists to return to post conflict, war-torn countries.

This experience led him into consulting on global security and foreign affairs which spurred his desire to better understand the inner connectedness of complex systems.



In this episode, Ryan Palmer shares some insight into how things SHOULD be handled and we discuss some potential reasons why they haven't been, without even needing to don our tin foil hats.

After our conversation, I have started to look at crises in my own life and how I can better manage them. One of the biggest takeaways is how to better communicate. Our tendency is to try and divulge as much information as possible, with the notion that more is better.

But as Ryan points out, all the studies have indicated that in times of crisis, we are only able to process three pieces of information and our attention span is only about twenty-seven seconds long. Thus, the "3-9-27 Rule" states we should only deliver 3 sentences that are about 9 seconds long, for a total message of 27 seconds. (Some even suggest we should keep the entire message to 9 seconds and only 27 total words).

3 C's of Crisis Communication

  • Be Concise (3-9-27 rule)
  • Be Consistent
  • Be Compassionate

From the day we are born we are all subject to repeatedly experience some form of crisis or another until the day we die. This may seem like a bleak outlook. But, it is only through crisis that we can actually grow. And to do so, we must learn to properly manage both during and after the event.

Once we are able to master these skills, we are capable of handling anything that life throws at us and will continue to come out better on the other side.

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