Good communication skills are essential and play an important role in providing information about operations and activities. You will need to communicate effectively when you are:
- Discussing issues, problem-solving and decision making
- Giving and receiving instructions
- Providing feedback
Communication is typically good between people who know and trust each other and within a team but not between teams. The implications of this are that a person working autonomously has to work harder at communicating than the average team member.
In the workplace, communication occurs between you and:
- Your supervisor, providing feedback, progress reports, discussion of any decisions
- Internal or external stakeholders affected by your work; for example, other fire authorities, other emergency management organisations, community members
- Other team members who have overlapping work priorities
Some things which may facilitate effective communication include:
- Socialising or communicating informally with people from teams, other work groups, peers so that you do not become isolated or miss information
- Active listening and assertive communication
- Engaging in training opportunities where groups that would not normally work together are involved
Seek confirmation to ensure the person you are communicating with has understood your message in the way you intended.
Factors which influence communication include the message itself, characteristics of the sender and receiver and the medium used for communication (phone, email, presentation etc.). To improve communication in the workplace you should be aware of the factors which can hinder communication such as:
Assertiveness and Communication
Being assertive is an important aspect of being effective when working autonomously. You may have to:
- Express your view and draw conclusions about your work to others
- Raise questions about procedures or obtain more information when you are uncertain
- Clarify instructions and other communications received
- Request fire and weather information, briefings, debriefings etc when they are not given. This includes asking questions or requesting that someone repeat information you did not understand
- Negotiate for equipment and resources
Being assertive means that at times, you may need to push and pull information to and from your officer in charge or to others in your team.
Most people use indirect communication for most day to day communication – even teams that operate in high-risk work environments – because it is perceived as less aggressive or rude. However, direct language is essential when you need to advocate your position in a timely manner. Remember, direct language is respectful; it simply leaves less information subject to interpretation.
For example, when aircraft communicate with air traffic control, they say directly and exactly what they mean, in very specific terms. No information is expressed with sarcasm or implied. This eliminates any need for interpretation or misunderstanding.
Use direct communication in any of these situations:
- You are unsure of events
- You see a problem
- You have an answer to a question
- You are not getting your point across to the listener
It is also essential to use direct statements when you are giving a briefing to your team (using the SMEACS format) and when you are giving a situation report (using the ITASC format).