The Ten Commandments Of Communication

Those hearing your message should get a clear understanding of exactly what it is they are going to be dealing with. However, there are those who will communicate very poorly, giving the impression that they have lost it, and are out of control! Which...


The first time you use the radio to give the on scene report will leave a lasting impression of you and your ability to communicate. Additionally, it should paint a good picture of the incident for all responders. Those hearing your message should get a clear understanding of exactly what it is they are going to be dealing with. However, there are those who will communicate very poorly, giving the impression that they have lost it, and are out of control! Which do you want to be remembered as?

The first of the 10 Commandments is "Think Before You Speak." Often times firefighters and officers allow the adrenaline rush to overtake them. The excitement will reflect in their communications. Thinking before they speak will assist them in controlling this adrenaline rush. It's hard not to be reactive to the things going on around them, however, for good clear communications to be effective, they have to take control and not react too soon. Taking an extra few seconds, along with a deep breath and think about what it is they want to say before they say it will be very beneficial. After they have their thoughts in line and have taken that extra breath (all within three to five seconds), they will be able to send that clear communication that is expected. Moreover, never yell over the radio. Radios have been manufactured to work just fine using normal voice levels and tones.

As mentioned above, the excitement will reflect in the communications. This is true as well when speaking to members of your crew, other fire department members, or to victims and the public. If you're yelling, it has a tendency to resonate signs of nervousness or uncertainty; it will have a negative effect. Who would want to be racing into battle under the directions of this sort of leader? These individuals (screamers and yellers) often have a tendency to say things that cannot be erased from other firefighter's minds. Worse yet, they often say things that they will never be able to take back or will regret later. What impression is this individual sending about himself and your department as a whole to the victims and the public? They should be mindful of the message, the audience, and the tone with which they are speaking. Many times the way one communicates is more important than the message itself. Taking that few extra seconds to think about what you want to say would be a wise investment on your behalf.

The second commandment is "Speak Truthfully." One of the worst things anyone can do is lie. How many times has someone lied to you? How many times have you lied to someone? The fire service is no place for liars. Period. Communities hold the fire service in high esteem and take what we tell them to be truthful. What a let down to our communities that look to us each day for assistance should we be lying to them? Secondly, how can anyone work along side another fire fighter or officer that blatantly lies to them? Many will lie because they do not want to stand up and take the blame for their actions or admit they have done something wrong. Hey, I say be a man and admit when you are wrong! Everyone makes mistakes, this is how we learn. It has been said, give a person enough rope and they will eventually hang themselves. The same holds true for a liar, eventually they will be caught up in a lie and hang themselves. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from words like never and always. These will have a tendency to come back to haunt you.

Commandment number Three is "Transparency." Transparency is a close companion of Commandment Two. Be open and honest with everyone. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with many different bosses and firefighters. The ones that I remember the most have been those that where always open and honest about everything. These individuals never hide behind a fake frontage or facade. I knew exactly what they were thinking, how they were going to respond to a situation, and what they wanted to accomplish and in what order. The officers where humble and never let pride get in their way. Additionally, these officers and firefighters never held back their knowledge from others or me. Many hours spent around the coffee table Monday morning quarterbacking incidents allowed all of us to hone our skills.

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