Pretend you work for the bomb squad

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

This past week, I attended a professional development conference for educators. The keynote speaker, Dr. Ivan Lerner used a metaphor that I had never heard before in the realm of connecting with the other and interpersonal relationships.


He challenged the audience to consider the precarious work of the bomb squad. For the technicians who are tasked with the diffusion, neutralization, and removal of the threat, the professionalism and focus required is unparalleled in most other industries (surgeons would be a fair parallel).

Tony Chow Shek-kin oversaw Hong Kong's bomb squad for the past 30 years, protecting the city from more than 300 explosives. Retiring from the role in March 2019, Chow was featured in an interview in which he expressed the sensitivity and danger in each scenario:

In the movie (Shock Wave), officers go in there, spend five minutes on the bomb, then walk away very quickly as heroes. In real life, we have to be there for quite a long time. There’s no second take. If we make a mistake, we die.

For the bomb removal technician, every scenario has to be treated as if it is the technician's very first time removing a threat. Adam Roberts, a veteran bomb disposal officer expressed it best when he said: "We do not rely on luck, we rely on experience, training and the quality of our brother officers; luck is something we ­seldom discuss".

My guess is that most of us do not work for the bomb squad; yet, we certainly encounter a relatable phenomenon in our daily lives when we interact with others. The energy, enthusiasm, and affect in which we encounter the other throughout the day impacts our overall relationship with the other, whether it is one's 1st or 100th person being greeted, as the Talmudic scholar Shammai once taught,

Receive every person with a pleasant countenance ~ Ethics of our Fathers

Every person. Easier said than done; expecting this of ourselves during each interaction sets an unrealistic standard, but perhaps we can improve our interactions with the other in incremental steps. Trying to approach our next interaction with fresh eyes, as if its a first time greeting. A greater dose of patience, enthusiasm, and interest will go a long away; O, and don't forget to smile.

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