When you’re isolated with a group of people, whether it’s your family or coworkers, those people are your greatest asset. But they also happen to be your biggest annoyance.
This may go against what everyone tells you, but I can assure you it is true. When dealing with other people in isolation, never ever let them see when something frustrates you. It can almost become a form of entertainment for them to continue whatever they are doing.
You must understand you cannot change their behavior or actions, but you can change how you view or respond to the situation.
Does it warrant leaving the environment (which is highly-recommend, provided you walk away with a smile)? Or can you simply alter your thought process to remove your frustration or annoyance.
Last night, my daughter decided to practice her saxophone at 11 o’clock, just as I was laying down to go to sleep. Instead of getting angry and yelling at her, I turned on the TV and decided to stay up ten minutes later watching TV and taking the opportunity to do a relaxing mindless activity. So instead of filling the house with anger and stressing myself out, I turned the situation into a relaxing event.
Something else to consider is this: You are changing under these conditions. Understanding this basic fact helps you deal with the people and situations around you.
When I was in living Antarctica, after nine months at the station and with another four months to go, I watched the movie “The Shining.” I realized, first, what a tremendous actor Jack Nicholson is and, second, I was beginning to exhibit some of the mannerisms and characteristics he displayed. You know, “Heeeeere’s, Johnny!” Yes, I saw myself reflected in Jack Nicholson’s character. It wasn’t a particularly flattering portrait. In my case, sleep deprivation from continuous darkness and nine months at an isolated station at the bottom of the world had taken a toll. Realizing this actually helped me.
At the South Pole, I found my ability to focus and concentrate degraded. Simple things, like correct spelling in sending an email, became worse (not that my spelling was too great to begin with). Understanding you are changing due to the situation allows you to adapt your behavior. It also helps you understand why people might be treating you differently.
The other thing isolation in Antarctica taught me is each of us is important to all of our survival. It’s critical we get all along. The power plant mechanic had to do his job to keep the lights on and heat going. The heavy equipment operator was in charge of the trash. The cook kept us fed. Each person plays their respective role. Without teamwork, we could not survive.
From the coronavirus pandemic – and the panic reaction of buying toilet paper, for instance – we’ve all learned the importance of truck drivers. Mind you, it’s not that truck drivers have changed – it’s just the role they play in society seems more important today than it did in a couple months ago. Truck drivers have remains the same; it’s our perception that’s changed.
Remember then it’s not best to get the upper hand in anger or retaliation. Instead, strive to gain the upper hand through pleasant interactions you control!
By Mike Masterman, President & CEO, Extreme Endeavors
Mike Masterman spent 28 months isolated in Antarctica, including two winters at the South Pole. He is writing this blog during the coronavirus pandemic to share the strategies and suggestions he learned during his time in the remoteness of the Antarctic.