An Astronaut’s Tips For Living in Space – Or Anywhere

NASA is accepting applications to #BeAnAstronaut at USAJobs.gov until March 31, 2020.

Adapted from a Twitter Thread by astronaut Anne McClain

One thing astronauts have to be good at: living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Here are some tips for all who find yourself in a similar scenario.

Nearly 20 years successfully living on the International Space Station and more than 50 flying in space did not happen by accident. NASA astronauts and psychologists have examined what human behaviors create a healthy culture for living and working remotely in small groups.

They narrowed it to five general skills and defined the associated behaviors for each skill. NASA astronauts call it “Expeditionary Behavior,” and they are part of everything we do. When it goes well, it’s called “good EB.”

Here are the five good expeditionary behavior skills.

Skill 1, Communication

Definition: Communication means to talk so you are clearly understood. To listen, and question to understand. Actively listen, pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify, discuss, then work to resolve conflict.

To practice good Communication EB, share information and feelings freely. Talk about your intentions before taking action. Use proper terminology. Discuss when your or others’ actions were not as expected. Take time to debrief after success or conflict. Listen, then restate messages to ensure they are understood. Admit when you are wrong.

Skill 2, Leadership/Followership

Definition: How well a team adapts to changed situations. A leader enhances the group’s ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. A follower (aka a subordinate leader) actively contributes to the leader’s direction. Establish an environment of trust.

To practice good Leadership/Followership EB, accept responsibility. Adjust your style to your environment. Assign tasks and set goals. Lead by example. Give direction, information, feedback, coaching and encouragement. Ensure your teammates have resources. Talk when something isn’t right. Ask questions. Offer solutions, not just problems.

Skill 3, Self-Care

Definition: Self-Care means keeping track of how healthy you are on psychological and physical levels. It includes hygiene, managing your time and your stuff, getting sleep, and maintaining your mood. Through self-care, you demonstrate your ability to be proactive to stay healthy.

To practice good Self-Care EB, realistically assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and their influence on the group. Learn from mistakes. Identify personal tendencies and their influence on your success or failure. Be open about your weaknesses and feelings. Take action to mitigate your own stress or negativity (don’t pass it on to the group). Be social. Seek feedback. Balance work, rest, and personal time. Be organized.

Skill 4, Team Care

Definition: Team Care is how healthy the group is on psychological, physical and logistical levels. Recognize that this can be influenced by stress, fatigue, sickness, supplies, resources, workload, etc. Nurture optimal team performance despite challenges.

To practice good Team Care EB, demonstrate patience and respect. Encourage others. Monitor your team for signs of stress or fatigue. Encourage participation in team activities. Develop positive relationships. Volunteer for the unpleasant tasks. Offer and accept help. Share credit; take the blame.

Skill 5, Group Living

Definition: Group Living skills are how people cooperate and become a team to achieve a goal. Identify and manage different opinions, cultures, perceptions, skills and personalities. Demonstrate resilience in the face of difficulty.

To practice good Group Living EB, cooperate rather than compete. Actively cultivate group culture (use each individual’s culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities and workload. Take accountability; give praise freely. Then work to ensure a positive team attitude. Keep calm in conflict.

You can be successful in confinement if you are intentional about your actions and deliberate about caring for your team. When we work together, we will continue to be #EarthStrong.

Kelli Mars – photo NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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