How to be unflappable – learning from my Mum

My Mum rocks. I have learnt so much from her. Both through her intentional parenting of me and her unintentional passing on of wisdom. One of the biggest things I’ve learnt from her is how to calmly handle any situation.

I asked my husband what he thought I’d learnt from my Mum and his first answer was, “to be unflappable”. So, we were in agreement. The word ‘unflappable’ is defined in the dictionary as, ‘having or showing calmness in a crisis’. That totally sums my Mum up. She’s known for it. And, she’s always been like it.

Crisis situations can vary. For example, my Mum wouldn’t think twice about unexpectedly having dinner guests over and stretching the food. That might not seem like a big deal but have you ever been a last minute guest somewhere and had the feeling that maybe they weren’t expecting you and really the host didn’t have enough food for you? My Mum wouldn’t make you feel like that. Our home was (and is) always open. Anyone is welcome and everyone is welcomed.

So, there are hospitality ‘crises’ but then there are actual emergency crisis situations. My mum was a nurse so is particularly unflappable in medical situations! I lost count as a kid of the number of times where she has stopped to help someone in need. Her ability to see danger and be decisive and helpful is admirable.

I remember a time when I realised that being unflappable was not the norm. I used to walk over a bridge on the way to work. One morning I spotted a man undressing and climbing up onto the edge of the bridge above the water. I watched, horrified, as others looked but carried on walking. Without thinking, I sped up, linked my arm with his and told him, “I’m not going to let you jump”. Long story short, I asked another passerby to phone the police and waited. Incredibly, a close friend of mine appeared on the other side of the bridge and joined me as we held this hurting man together and stopped him from jumping.

I was asked afterwards, “how did you know what to do?” The answer was, “I didn’t”. But, I saw a crisis situation and I knew I had to do something and instinctively I knew I had to do it calmly. Sure, afterwards I got to work and had a massive cup of tea and a long sit down but in the moment I was unflappable.

Every day is filled with crisis moments. Moments where difficult decisions must be made. Or, where there is difficulty or danger. Regardless of whether those moments are big or small, planned for or unexpected, I’ve learnt to calmly approach each one.

Everyone needs an unflappable friend. Someone who listens without being shocked and can handle a crisis. Someone who you can rely on to hold things lightly and laugh with in unexpected moments. And, who makes wise decisions under pressure. I’m proud to have my Mum as that friend. I hope that I am that person for my friends and I aspire to be that for my kids.

In those moments when I’m sat at my desk at 4.30pm and staring at 63 unread emails I need to reply to, or my toddler is throwing a tantrum in the checkout queue and trying to bite my face (has happened more than once!), I choose to channel my unflappable Mum and show calmness. I can do it because she taught me.

What are your favourite qualities you’ve learnt from other people?

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