It’s been a week since the Asiana Arlines Flight 214 crash in San Francisco and federal investigators are still trying to make sense of what happened. One area of investigation is whether procedures were followed in what is known as “monitor and challenge.” Investigators are reviewing the “tone and demeanor” inside the cockpit to see if junior pilots felt safe challenging their superiors. And they believe that it is likely that someone in the cockpit would have noticed that the approach speed was a problem and DID NOT SPEAK UP!
Excerpts from Emotional Well-Being: Embracing the Gift of Life:
Is it more likely for a commercial airliner to crash while being flown by the more experienced officer or by the less experienced officer?
Common sense would lead us to believe that it would be the less experienced officer. However, several decades of data regarding commercial airline crashes tell us that the majority of crashes happened while the airplane was piloted by the more experienced officer.
How can we make sense of this information? The answer lies in a term known as “mitigated speech.” Mitigated speech is a linguistic term used to describe deferential or indirect speech, or as Malcolm Gladwell put it in his book Outliers, “any attempt to downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what is being said.”
We mitigate our speech by being polite, or by not directly saying what we need to say. This often occurs when we relate to authority. This behavior is also a classic example of restricting our behavior in a relationship.
Even in the face of extreme imminent danger, even as the airplane was descending towards a crash, many officers were unwilling to directly tell the pilot at the controls, that they were messing up. Think about the implications of this information.
Even when faced with a high probability of a crash, and therefore their passengers’ deaths, as well as their own, these officers would literally rather die than offend the pilot. How ingrained does this social construct have to be to actually risk death rather than speaking up? Well, that’s easy to answer. Extremely ingrained! And to varying degrees, it is ingrained in most of us.
Marriages and couple relationships can operate in the same manner. Because of the emotionally dependent nature of the relationship, either individual may restrict their behavior in an attempt to maximize the security of the relationship and get their emotional needs met.
Are there relationships in which you mitigate your speech? What are the consequences?