Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Group Dynamics in Sticky Situations

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Recovery situations can be even more intense and dangerous. This is where it is vital that the driver of the vehicle specify who is coordinating the recovery. The designated coordinator directs all actions, and all opinions and ideas are discussed with him before any action takes place. Obviously, when other vehicles are employed to recover a vehicle, the drivers of the assisting vehicles cooperate by consent with the disabled vehicle’s driver.

As a general reminder, keep all unnecessary personnel well back from a disabled vehicle, and no one should be on the downhill side at any distance. A good rule of thumb if a winch is involved is that everyone stays beyond a radius longer than the length of the winch cable from both ends of the cable, in case it breaks at the hook or the drum.

3. Speak up.

Communication is vital, yet the most difficult and overlooked element in recovery and spotting situations. If you are the selected “leader”, take command of the situation, but don’t be bossy and egomaniacal. A good leader will consider every opinion, and patiently explain why a suggestion will or will not be employed in the situation. A good leader will not let his or her personal ego get in the way of employing others’ suggestions. A good leader will give clear and thorough instructions.

If you are a participant, or just an onlooker, don’t be afraid to speak up if you see something wrong or even that you think just looks odd to you. It is common for someone to NOT speak up when he believes that he doesn’t have as much experience as others around him. But sometimes even a beginner’s point of  view illuminates a situation. I have had beginners point out an effective line over an obstacle that I had never considered. As mentioned above, a good leader will give respectful explanations for his decisions.

Also on the side of “not speaking up”, there is also the tendency among friends to approach a situation too casually, when in fact it calls for the utmost precision and clarity. Often, it is because they have reached a certain comfort level with each other’s skills and don’t want to offend by questioning the other’s actions. I have many stories of mishaps where some of the driver’s closest friends stood by silently, thinking he knew what was going on, and where the driver proceeded silently because he thought his friends would surely speak up if something didn’t look just right.

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