When Emotions Run High

Stylized words,

Crises often create heightened emotional responses. When emotions run high, it is often difficult to communicate public health messages effectively. As crisis communicators, it is our job to address these barriers to communication to promote positive community behaviors and emergency response outcomes.

The following basic circumstances are more likely to increase anger:

  • When people have been hurt
  • When they feel threatened by risks not of their own making
  • When they feel their fundamental beliefs are being challenged
  • When people feel weak in the face of others who are more powerful
  • When they feel like they haven’t been treated fairly or with respect
  • When people feel manipulated, ignored, or trivialized

If communicated in an insensitive way, emergency response messages may increase dissention and outrage.

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) principles offer tools for understanding and responding to public concerns. Communicators who allow an affected population to share their thoughts and feelings, ask questions, and participate in active listening can help people feel included in a solution. A community’s input may also inform the content of future messages. Following CERC principles can help communicators and communities work together toward a positive crisis resolution.

For more information on CERC visit our website and check out the CERC manual. You can also read previous CERC Corners.

Have you used CERC in your work? To share your CERC stories, e-mail cercrequest@cdc.gov. Your stories may appear in future CERC Corners.

Page last reviewed: March 24, 2017 (archived document)