Communication in action and action in communication

Effective communication is the fuel that feeds momentum and action in achieving progress in the fire service

We spend volumes of time contemplating the ghosts of our collective past indiscretions and inadequacies. There is much to learn, yet there is more to do. Effective communication does not happen by mistake, but by understanding our past and comprehending the full meaning of both conveying messages and listening to others.

Studies of failed kingdoms and societies undoubtedly point to inherent lapses in effective communication, inclusion and action. Slay the dragons (and ghosts) of your past through action and through communicating the lessons learned from your past. It is important to learn from our past - but not live in our past. Progress doesn’t happen yesterday.

Deliberate progress through communication

(Photo/U.S. Department of the Interior)
(Photo/U.S. Department of the Interior)

Progress in our business is not merely a process of osmosis, but a deliberate development through education, examining scientific analysis and our action through combing our lessons learned. While you’ve likely heard the phrase, “don’t mess with something that works,” forward movement cannot continue through momentum alone. Momentum, without fuel, will eventually ebb. 

Let’s think about communication like gasoline – in its purest, refined sense, gasoline powers our engines, combined with batteries that keep our vehicles moving efficiently. If water invades the gasoline, separation occurs, air pockets develop and engines choke for forward progress.

Communication is the fuel that keeps the momentum of action moving forward. Muddy the waters of your words and progress breaks down. The efficiency of communication from point A to B is interrupted and might be locked out. Perception of communication makes all the difference between first, second or third gear, or park and reverse.

Effective communication in the fire service

So how do we effectively communicate? Follow these four simple and proven steps for effective communication:

  1. Listen. Don’t just hear, really listen. Be engaged and deliberate with discussion. 
  2. Acknowledge. Listening means listening, not fumbling with your phone or staring off in the abyss. Absorb the communication and process the cues. Your non-verbal responses are part of ensuring the communication process is effective.
  3. Calm down. In the emergent sense, remember, this isn’t your emergency. In the non-emergent sense, a calm and measured response will breed confidence and more calm in response. 
  4. Know what you’re talking about. Be respectfully assertive when necessary. Learn your craft and be prepared to engage through knowledge.

Say what you mean, mean what you say and make sure you’re always learning. Regardless of their hyperbole, nobody knows it all, and no one book is the panacea for all of our ills. Keep the safety of your communities and people always at the forefront. 

Whether we like it or not, we descend from the collective of our ghosts and skeletons. We must coral those ghosts and skeletons to fulfill our missions.

In one of its simplest translations, our mission is to bring calm to chaos. An effective communication strategy will help facilitate calm action and forward progress – leaving the ghosts and skeletons where they belong ... in the past.

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