Examining the “fire brigade” approach

Some of you may have heard of this but for those who haven’t, let me enlighten you.

You know that colleague who rushes to you the instant you step foot in the office, when you haven’t even dropped your bag? Yes, the one that asks you for a document in a mad panic. EVERYTHING seems to be an emergency with this person. Well, that’s the fire brigade approach. And it can be lethally annoying!

Photo courtesy of http://isntlifeterrible.com

The first thing I’m thinking is: Take a deep breath. Ask yourselves some keys questions like, ‘Is it life-threatening?’ Usually, it isn’t but it doesn’t stop the fire brigade.

Recently, I bought a phone from eBay. The moment I became the highest bidder, he sent me an email asking whether I was “real” and that he had had some bad experiences so he was just checking. I was fine with this, I understood perfectly so I replied saying I was real. Then as soon as I won the auction (literally 10 minutes later), the seller emailed me again to say that if I paid that day, he would post it the next morning with special delivery. ‘Great,’ I thought as I sat in the cinema watching ‘I don’t know how she does it.’ As I left the cinema 2 hours later, I noticed another email! This time, the seller said since I didn’t pay that he could no longer send it the next day and I’d have to wait till the day after.

This person was giving me a headache. It was standard fire brigade behaviour. The problem with this approach is that I react strangely to it. I generally slow down (the opposite of what they want me to do) and start watching the person intently, looking for signs of mental illness or anti-social tendencies. I admit that I usually just see a person that is impatient and in a hurry. I have not found evidence that links this to mental illness – yet.

Since I could not watch this seller intently, and I really wanted the phone sooner rather than later, I went on PayPal and paid. Then I sent an email to say I had and casually asked what the mad rush was about, AND to please still send the phone as I couldn’t see why not – after all, it was still today!

Can you sense how exhausting this approach can be for all parties involved? There are times when this approach works – like when there’s imminent danger. But I really wish everyone would calm down. I have used this approach in the past, you’d be surprised to know but I always got a bad vibe from the recipient. And as you know, I’m very perceptive so I deliberately watched out for when the behaviour was coming and I stopped it. So if you are a fire brigade junkie, try these top 5 tips:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Consider if there’s any real cause for alarm e.g. is it murder or is it life threatening or will lives be lost?
  3. Does your victim look like they are in the mood to be hassled?
  4. Is your victim holding a weapon? If so, back off.
  5. Could you perhaps come back later when they have had their morning coffee and done emails?

Do you know any fire brigade junkies or are you one yourself? Come on, everyone knows at least one person that behaves like this. I’ll try not to judge :-).

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