My Earthquake is better than your Debt Crisis



Thus reads headlines, radio report, twitter feeds and FaceBook. For a while. This replaces the prior headlines of debt crisis disagreements, floods, heat waves, and tornadoes. In a few days, there will be a new headline about something else.

Is one of these a better story than the rest? That totally depends on how it affects you. For most of us that are not directly affected, it is not a matter of “better” but simply “latest.”

When something does not directly impact us then, for all practical purposes, it is more of a reality television show than reality. It is something happening somewhere else, just like fights between Kardashians, crabs being caught in dangerous waters, and people we’ve never heard of singing their way to fame each week. Something that we may notice or even pay attention to for awhile but which has no real impact on our lives.

Of course this emotional disconnect from problems is not limited to national headlines. This disconnect is part of our everyday lives. The headlines in your life may or may not be of interest to others, who have their own headlines. Maybe we had a good day or a bad day. Perhaps someone we love is sick or they got a promotion. Maybe your company has a great new product or you have a new service you are offering. Maybe you plan to go on vacation next weekend. Perhaps your favorite football team won or lost.

Personal headlines are the main topics occupying our thoughts. We share them and discuss them. The more a crisis impacts someone, the more they focus on it.

Do your personal headlines matter to you? Of course!

Do your personal headlines matter to everyone else? Probably to only a few and, even then, not every issue on every day (unless you have a stalker, which is another type of crisis).

I’ve often talked about the importance of empathy in clear communication. Empathy is hard when we are naturally wired to focus on ourselves and our perspectives. We see our headlines as important and can easily forget to pay attention to the personal headlines of others, even those closest to us. The pace of news and information bombarding us each day makes this even harder as personal headlines, marketing efforts, and news headlines are all competing for our attention all day.

When you want to be better understood by others, make a point to frequently consider that life is not always about the headlines important to you. It is about the headlines important to others. Many sales and marketing professionals forget this. So do people looking for a new job, a promotion, or even a date.

Your crisis does not have to always be better or more important than someone else’s. To be heard and respected, remember that your headlines are not the only headlines. Look for how your story fits with someone else’s. Listen, consider, relate, and connect.


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at

© 2011 All Rights Reserved.  Glenn S. Phillips and Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.