Situational Awareness


Liz GanglBy: Elizabeth Gangl – RPR

Situational awareness is, quite simply, being aware of your surroundings.  Taking it one step further, being aware of how you behave in your surroundings can impact your actions and the actions of those around you.  Lack of situational awareness can cause irritation, embarrassment, annoyance and sometimes even danger.

Irritation:  We have all had experiences with people who seem to be situationally unaware.  Head down any grocery store aisle, and there will always be “that” person with their cart parked right in the middle, mulling over their cookie choice, blissfully unaware they are blocking traffic from both directions.

Embarrassment:  On occasion I have been the one who has been situationally unaware, thankfully causing no harm but a dent in my ego.  At the completion of a deposition, I thanked an attorney, said goodbye, and promptly walked into the closet instead of out the door.   And while I’m being honest in my quest for examples of situational awareness – I once walked into the men’s bathroom at a law firm – right as the attorney I was working with walked out.  Yes.  That really happened.

Annoyance:  Head down any crowded sidewalk and I guarantee there will be “that” person again who stops suddenly to do something that seems to be the most important thing at that very moment and can’t possibly wait to do it after they have safely moved out of the traffic pattern.

Danger:  Sometimes lack of situational awareness can be frightening.  I was at the Mall of America one day with my 84-year-old mother.  We had just come from the Apple store, going towards Macy’s.  Because she was recovering from a hip fracture, we were walking very slowly.  We were engrossed in conversation about her new iPad and what a learning curve it would be for her.  I was way more focused on my mother than what was going on around us.  CLASSIC example of not being situationally aware.  I felt someone reach into my purse, and at that moment realized we had been surrounded by a gang of young people who apparently decided it was okay to help themselves to the new iPad.   Had I been paying more attention, and had I been practicing the concept of situational awareness, we would never have been in this position.  Long story short – I got punched in the head, they got nothing but the privilege of being ejected from the Mall, my mom was okay, and we learned a valuable lesson.  Paying attention to WHAT is around you and WHO is around you CAN and WILL impact how you respond to the situation.

How does all this apply to court reporting and our work?  We can plan ahead by prepping for the job, checking our supplies and doing all the things we do to ensure a successful outcome, but once we get to our job assignment we need to be particularly situationally aware.  In those first few minutes, we can stack the odds in our favor for a positive outcome.  Something as simple as scoping out our surroundings can build confidence.  Where are the plug-ins?  Where are the bathrooms?  If I set up here, will the light from the windows bother my eyes?  What do I have for chair choices?  If I sit here will I block the door?  Do I really want to be by the beverage table?  Does the attorney have a favorite side?  How many exhibits will there be?  No one’s been here for a while, am I in the right conference room?  Did the case settle and no one told me?  And the list goes on and on.  Being situationally aware can make our day go so much better and our job so much smoother.   Being situationally aware imparts a sense of confidence.   Confidence will help you perform your job better.  Attorneys like confident reporters who can get the job done, and done well.

Be situationally aware – on the job and in all aspects of life.  Stop, take a moment, breathe in deep, let your mind rest and really think about how your actions in any given situation will impact those around you.  Just please don’t take that moment in the middle of a crowded sidewalk.

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