Element 2 – Communicate With Others
Effective communication is all about conveying your messages to other people clearly and unambiguously. It’s also about receiving information that others are sending to you, with as little distortion as possible.
Effective communication involves effort from both the sender of the message and the receiver. It is a process that can be fraught with error, with messages muddled by the sender or misinterpreted by the recipient. When misinterpretation isn’t detected, it can cause tremendous confusion, wasted effort and missed opportunity. In fact, communication is only successful when both the sender and the receiver understand the same information as a result of the communication.
By successfully getting your message across, you convey your thoughts and ideas effectively. When not successful, the thoughts and ideas that you actually send do not necessarily reflect what you think, causing a communication breakdown and creating roadblocks that stand in the way of your goals – both personally and professionally.
The way you communicate has a big impact on your ability to get along with people and get the things that you want. Good communication skills can help you to solve problems and avoid conflict. Open and honest communication is also important for building relationships with team members, clients and members of the public. Communication can be expressed in an aggressive, passive or assertive style.
Aggressive communication is expressed in a forceful and hostile manner and usually involves alienating messages such as you-statements (blaming the other person and accusing them of being wrong or at fault) and labelling. In addition, the person’s tone of voice and facial expressions are unfriendly. The assumption behind aggressive communication is ‘your needs don’t matter’ (I win / you lose).
Assertive communication involves clearly expressing what you think, how you feel and what you want without demanding that you must have things your way. The basic underlying assumption is ‘we both matter – let’s try to work this out’. Assertive communication increases your likelihood of getting what you want, avoiding conflict and maintaining good relationships (I win / you win). When you are assertive you can:
- Express your own thoughts, feelings and needs
- Make reasonable requests of other people (while accepting their right to say ‘no’)
- Stand up for your own rights
- Say ‘no’ to requests from others at times, without feeling guilty
Security professionals are often thrust into conflict situations and expected to resolve the matter with consummate ease. While this expectation might be a little unrealistic, it is possible to develop assertive (not aggressive) skills that will assist in conflict resolution. Some of these verbal skills however, contravene our human nature and as such will require some time and effort to develop. Persevere with these skills and you will find your time has been invested wisely.
|+ ‘You talk’ – Endeavour to structure your sentences to include phrases like;
‘You need to leave now’ or;
‘You know better than to behave like that!’
For further impact, if the situation is a little tense you can add; ‘don’t you’ to these phrases.
‘You need to leave now, don’t you’ and;
‘You know better than to behave like that, don’t you’
This method of communication directs the person to their behaviour rather than your instructions. Statements like;
‘I want you to leave’ and; ‘I want you to stop that behaviour’ give the offending person ‘ammunition’ to argue with instructions.
Most people who are being difficult have little or no regard for another person’s instructions, desire or requests.
‘It is in your best interest’ – Once again, this phrase directs the focus of the conversation back toward the person who is being difficult.
|+ Negotiation – An example of negotiating a Win / Win result could be;
Officer; ’Show me some me some identification please sir!’
Offender; ‘Hey, get that torch out of my eyes!’
Officer; ‘Certainly sir. I’ll move the torch out of your eyes when you show me some identification.’
|+ Master your own destiny – Don’t give the protagonist ammunition, making statements like;
‘Management requests that you leave the premises’
Accept that you are the officer responsible for dealing with this situation. Deferring to management policy or to the manager instead of dealing with the situation personally can fuel an argument about the policy or the manager rather than retaining focus on the matter at hand.
Have the conviction to ask the person to leave. Back yourself rather than defer to the manager and draw on his / her ‘de facto authority’. This will feel a little uncomfortable the first few times, but it is ultimately less uncomfortable than being drawn into an extended argument with the offender.
Poor communication often creates tension and bad feelings within relationships.
|– Passive communication involves putting your needs last. You don’t express your thoughts or feelings, or ask for what you want. When you use passive communication, it feels like others are walking all over you, because you don’t assert your own needs. This could lead to bottled up emotions and feeling resentful. The assumption behind passive communication is ‘my needs don’t matter’ (you win / I lose).|
|– Weak communication – A security professional will always be afforded a certain degree of credibility. This ‘comes with the uniform’. The manner in which the officer conducts his / herself while wearing that uniform however, can add or subtract from that credibility.
Some phrases and sentence structures diminish the officer’s authority quite significantly:
‘I am sorry…’
‘I am sorry but…’
‘I am going to have to ask you…’
When these examples of weakened communication are put together the officer reduces his / her authority even further:
‘I am sorry, but I am going to have to ask you leave the premises’
There is no requirement for you to apologise for doing your job. Remember, the person you are dealing with is disruptive, anti-social or conducting illegal activity. You are a trained professional who is performing your duty in a responsible manner.
|– Tangents – People who are being difficult are often frequently difficult. This means they have a lot of practice and tend to be good at their ‘chosen profession’. They may try to verbally direct you away from the real issue at hand. Suddenly, you may find yourself arguing about a completely irrelevant issue. You have been taken off on a tangent. Once that path has been taken, it is very difficult to firstly realise you are off the track and then channel the conversation back the matter in hand.|
No two disputes are exactly the same, just as no two disputants are the same physically, emotionally or intellectually.
Most of us have been negotiating all of our lives. We negotiate with our spouses, our children and our business colleagues. Each time we purchase a new vehicle or piece of furniture, we negotiate the terms of trading. When you are in the middle of a crowded supermarket and your child throws an extremely embarrassing tantrum over your refusal to purchase an ice cream, you are both locked in a negotiation.
It is now widely recognised that negotiation is more than winning an argument or conflict at the expense of your opponent. In business and in life we need ongoing relationships. We need the good will of the people we come into contact with. There’s an old saying that “the wheel always turns”. You may have the advantage today, but not have it tomorrow.
Another way of looking at the role of a security officer is the art of; ‘getting people to do what we want them to do’. An example of this concept applies when asking a patron for photo identification at the door of a nightclub. A simple task, but never the less, the patron is doing the bidding of the security officer. The officer must ask in such a manner that will have the person produce identification and still feel welcome, and more importantly, treated with dignity.
The same concept also applies when the officer asks a potentially armed offender to show his hands, for example. Given that the circumstances could be in a dark and isolated location and the potential for violence is very real, the officer must use his / her most effective negotiating skills.
A win / win negotiation is one in which both parties leave the negotiating table feeling that they have “won” or at the very least that they haven’t lost. The needs of both parties have been satisfied as far as possible. A negotiation should not degenerate into haggling, arguing or debating. If we consider the example of an offender with his hands behind his back, it may be difficult at first to see how a win / win situation can result.
- Firstly, examine what he really wants. Listen closely to his arguments. Does he actually want to stab you with the screwdriver behind his back or does he simply want to leave the warehouse and pretend the whole event never occurred?
- Secondly, look for what could be considered a ‘fair’ outcome for both parties. Both you and the offender are surprised, under stress and therefore will act less rationally than usual.
- It is imperative that the officer picks up on ‘clues’ or ‘hints’ as to the offender’s intentions. Be prepared to be flexible and compromise accordingly.
- Seek to ‘trade-off’ and grant ‘concessions’ as part of your negotiation.
- Stick to the issue at hand.
One might wonder if an offender who originally set out with a plan to rob a jewellery warehouse might consider walking away empty handed a ‘win’ result. Given that he has perhaps activated an alarm, initiated the response of a security officer and been confronted by the officer, his original plan has in fact been foiled. He is then forced to re-think his plans and look for the best result from the new situation.
While the offender may have a weapon and he may have the weapon concealed on his person, behind his back or even brandished in a threatening manner, the offender will rarely want to use it. By understanding what the offender really wants to achieve, the officer can afford him a ‘win’. He may not have successfully robbed the warehouse, but he might walk away with his dignity intact.
The question then remains of course; how does allowing an offender, caught in the midst of committing a crime, to depart the scene become a ‘win’ for the officer? Clearly this scenario could have many different endings, but if the officer remains safe, he / she has gained a substantial ‘win’. It is then simply a matter of turning to the Standard Operating Procedures of the employer to understand what to do next. A description of the offender; his car; his vehicle registration and so on will afford the police the best opportunity to apprehend the offender.
It is often ‘easier said than done’ to arrive at a win / win result. Add to an already tense situation, an offender who is affected by alcohol, drugs, mental disorder, or have criminal intent and so on. A skilled officer will seek out and achieve a win / win result contained within the complexity and tension of the situation.
Leadership is the ability to inspire others to act in the way that we would like them to act. As a security operator, it is important that people act how we want them to act and influencing people to act this way is considered an important part of a security professional’s job.
Characteristics of good leadership in a security role include:
- Self confidence
- An ability to communicate effectively with others
- An ability to see and understand a situation where guidance is needed and to provide that guidance
A security guard needs these qualities in order to respond effectively to emergencies like a bomb incident, a major fire, a shopping centre arrest or catching a thief red-handed.
Communicating with others requires a courteous manner that reflects understanding and respect for individual social and cultural differences. Considerations include:
- Beliefs, values or practices
- Cognitive (intellectual) ability
- Conventions of gender / sexuality
- Cultural stereotypes
- Food or diet
- Kinship, family structure and relationships
- Language skills
- Personal history and experiences which may be traumatic
- Physical, emotional and intellectual differences
- Religious and spiritual observances
- Social conventions
- Traditional practices and observations.
Your verbal communication should be clear and concise making sure the language used is appropriate to the audience and the assignment instructions. If the person is non-English speaking, greet the person as usual. Simply reinforce your verbal communication with positive body language. Speak a little slower than usual, but there is no need to speak more loudly than usual.
The communication strategies and techniques you select should develop and maintain confidence with the person you are communicating with:
- Active listening
- Being non-judgemental
- Being respectful and non-discriminatory to others
- Control of tone of voice, facial expression and body language
- Demonstrating flexibility and willingness to negotiate
- Interpreting non-verbal and verbal messages
- Maintaining professionalism
- Phone technique
- Providing and receiving constructive feedback
- Questioning and paraphrasing to clarify and confirm understanding
- Use of appropriate body language
- Use of communication appropriate to cultural differences
- Use of language concepts familiar to young people
- Use of positive, confident and cooperative language
- Use of two-way communication
In the security industry you will be communicating in many different ways and could be required to use the phonetic alphabet:
ALPHA BRAVO CHARLIE DELTA
ECHO FOXTROT GOLF HOTEL
INDIA JULIET KILO LIMA
MIKE NOVEMBER OSCAR PAPA
QUEBEC ROMEO SIERRA TANGO
UNIFORM VICTOR WHISKEY X-RAY
When communicating with others, you need to have an understanding of the organisational communication channels and equipment that would be used to accurately exchange information.
The communication channels may relate to:
- Communication with team members
- Direct supervision
- Formal reporting requirements
- Organisational networks
- Procedures for communication (including coded messages and use of abbreviations)
- Written signage
The communication equipment to be used may include:
- Facsimile machine
- Mobile telephone
- Public address system