Crisis decisions lead to unintended consequences

Published by Peter on

This week, the world is full of people saying they’re leaving Twitter and deleting their accounts.

No matter what you think of Elon Musk or his takeover of the social media site, think twice before deleting your Twitter account.

According to Twitter’s help pages, someone else will be able to claim your old user ID:

“Once your account is deleted after the 30-day deactivation window, your username will be available for registration by other Twitter accounts.”


Plus, your old tweets may be archived elsewhere:

“Deleting your Twitter account won’t delete your information from search engines like Google or Bing…”


So in the end, you may still have your name attached to a Twitter ID that is no longer under your control. I’m quite certain this isn’t the outcome that people rage-quitting Twitter today are looking for.

Keep calm and assess the situation

Generally speaking, knee-jerk reactions in the heat of emotion or the fog of fear can cause all kinds of unintended consequences.

This is why people who keep their cool and don’t overreact in chaotic, confusing circumstances are good to have around.

Staying calm allows you to

✅ assess threats and risks in a rational manner

✅ be more creative about alternative options

✅ retain your own power and agency

✅ avoid being manipulated by others

✅ see how every crisis fits into the bigger picture

✅ avoid unintended consequences

If you’re a super calm person like I am, though, you can be misinterpreted in the midst of chaos and confusion:

❌ “Peter doesn’t see how bad this is.”

❌ “Peter doesn’t care.”

❌ “Peter’s not a team player.”

This has happened to me.

Sometimes that rustling in the bushes is a real threat.
Photo: Rhino in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, 2012 – Peter Dudley

The crisis narrative

When a crisis occurs, a narrative rises from the chaos.

It’s important not to let that narrative grow organically because then, the loudest voices will come from the most fearful and hyper-reactive people.

These people have trouble seeing a clear path through the chaos. To them, every threat looms overlarge… even threats that don’t actually exist.

They may start squawking about how bad things are going to get. They may turn into alarmists—sounding the alarm about impending doom with each new tiny bump.

Even worse, there are people who exploit those fears for their own gain. Perhaps they’ll profit off people’s fears. Perhaps they feel powerful when others follow them.

Regardless, alarmism is how panic grows to take over whole systems.

Stampedes. Mob mindset. People hoarding toilet paper because they had been convinced the world was going to shut down. Armed gangs prowling polling places looking for evidence of non-existent voter fraud, because they had been convinced that an election was stolen.

Otherwise rational people do irrational things when driven by fear, prejudice, and uncertainty.

And sometimes it’s not.
Photo: Deer in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, 2012 – Peter Dudley

Stop a moment to allow room for critical thinking

When someone says something that feeds into and amplifies your fears, stop a moment. Think about what they’re saying. Think about what they have to gain from your fear.

Be calm. Assess the situation as rationally as you can. Turn the volume down on your fears, and shine bright lights on actual known facts.

Remember Occam’s Razor: Eliminate unnecessary information, and try to form the simplest interpretation from known truths.

The world was not actually going to run out of toilet paper… unless people rushed out in a panic to horde it. When they acted on fear-driven impulse, shelves emptied. The people most trying to avoid a problem were the ones who created it.

There was never any problem with the validity of American elections… until people began breaking into election centers to steal data, convinced they were going to find evidence of tampering. The people most trying to keep things honest were the ones who broke laws.

Avoiding unintended consequences

When things are most confusing and unsettled, when everyone starts calling for “all hands on deck” and talking about how bad things are going to get… that’s the time to look for a calm person.

Or to be the calm person in the room.

Set aside unnecessary information. Shut out alarmist voices. Turn down the volume on fear-driven emotion and rage-driven emotion. Set aside grievance and embarrassment and other emotions that tend to drive reactionary decisions.

Make room for creativity. Make room for rationality.

Assess the situation and consider all the possible responses.

Try to see all the unintended consequences of these possible responses.

Then, with intention, decide on the best steps… not just the easy ones, the fast ones, or the ones that fear and anger are telling you to take.

Don’t be a reactionary, and don’t fuel reactionary flames.

Being reactionary can cause more harm than good, because it often results in unintended consequences that can have long term, destructive effects.

So, if you’re angry at Elon Musk or upset about Twitter, go ahead and do what you need to do.

Just make sure you’re doing the right things for the right reasons, and that you understand the consequences that may result.

And that’s good advice for every situation, not just whether you should or shouldn’t delete your Twitter account.

Need help learning to stay calm in crisis? Let’s talk.

I talked with another long-established, highly effective coach yesterday. She told me, “You have such a positive, warm energy, and I’m sure that makes you very successful in your work as a coach.”

“You have such a positive, warm energy.”

A colleague

She’s right. I hear that from clients all the time, as well as peers. I’ve heard it my entire career. It’s one of my strengths—being calm, reassuring, positive, and present.

If you could use some of that, or want to learn how to manage yourself through crises, let’s talk. I’ve been through a lot of crises and seen a lot of different styles of reaction along the way.

I would love to help you create ways to respond better when things get crazy or emotions are high.

Set up some time to talk here.

Gray Bear Figurine Outdoors
Gray Bear is calm, wise, strong, and reliable.


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