Communicating with another firefighter while both wearing masks can sometimes be very difficult.  With sounds from engine companies, ventilation fans and radio traffic it’s a challenge to get your point across.   To speak clearer firefighters use a battery operated  amplification attachment to help with louder communications.  Even with advanced equipment communicating is still difficult.

Pictured above: Lt Tom Broyles and FF Chris Morris Richmond Fire Dept

Let’s skip past the emergency scenes and go right to contract negotiations, union meetings and city events.  How’s your communication skills?  Unlike a mask or amplifier we have little assistance unless we allow ourselves to learn better ways to connect.

How’s your tone?  How’s your facial expressions?  How’s your speed and volume?

I strongly believe that building relationships by communicating effectively enough to connect with others is vital to the future of our police and fire service.  Building long term relationships with decision makers depends on our ability to connect.  Here are six ways you can learn to build better communication with others.

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1. Do you Know yourself.

How many times have you said something you shouldn’t have.  Maybe you felt bad after you said it or you may not have thought much about it at all.  I’ve said things to others through the years that I wish I could take back and some I didn’t even realize how if actually effected them.  It all starts with self-awareness. When you’re communicating with other people, you need to be aware your mood.  If you’re feeling upset, angry and disturbed you may, unintentionally take it out on someone else.

We have a bad habit of throwing cynical and sarcastic zingers at others without thinking how it effects them.  If you’re catching yourself doing this outside the fire department please remember they may not be use to this type of communication.  Know yourself.

2. Who are you speaking with.

The best communicators understanding whomever they’re speaking with. Knowing what motivates them, different learning styles and what common ground you can find, allows you to adapt your message and increase the odds of effective communication. Empathy builds personal connections.   It puts people at ease and builds trust.  Understanding the other perspective will help you connect.

3. Clear points and an open mind.

Making your point clear will allow you to connect quicker.  If you have a vision but can’t seem to get anyone to buy in then ask yourself why.  Do they have an investment in the idea.  Are you allowing them to help with it?  Are you allowing input, ideas or suggestions?  People will take action on what it is your asking from them if they feel they are part of it.  If your audience is more confused after a meeting than before you know you’ve got some work to do.   It’s better to be open, clear and ready for questions than to leave room misunderstood.

yelling

4. How’s your Nonverbal Communication.

Research suggests nonverbal communication is more important than verbal communications.  Facial expressions, hand gestures, posture and eye contact all play a major role in undermining your message.

If you’re an instructor you understand.  Looking out into a shift during a training evolution can be challenging.  Glazed eyes and yawns are their way of telling you something nonverbally.  If they look like this then how are you looking?   The next time you’re speaking with someone, look at your own body language.  Then look at the body language of whomever you’re speaking to. Does your body language match your words and tone?

5. People want others to listen to them

One of the best ways to encourage open and honest communication is learning to listen. When someone is speaking to you,  listen intentionally to what they’re saying. Ask  questions.  This will let the other person know that you are listening.  Keep an open mind and focus on thoughtfully responding to what they say.  Listening will build better long term relationships than speaking.

6. Badge thumping vs Ego-less attitudes

Don’t hold your rank over others or use coercion or fear as motivators. Instead, focus on bringing an honest, positive and ego-less attitude to every situation that arises. Serving as a cheerleader helps maintain morale and can even facilitate creativity and effective problem solving.

These communication skills take practice. You’re not going to master them in a day.  In fact even though I write about communications and connecting its an ongoing challenge.  Trying to learn from communication errors is important.  Try to practice these strategies in your day to day life.  Learn by reading books, attending seminars and becoming a student of connecting with others.   The more you implement these skills, the more they’ll start to feel normal. Ultimately the more your leadership abilities will benefit.

Picture above: Gray Williams-CSFD Chaplain, Brian Benedict, Nathan Raulie Station 14, Brad Starling Training, Austin Pugh Station 4 Honor Guard, Mike Bennett Denver Sheriff Dept, Matt Seube Station 11

Within a few minutes of meeting these firefighters from Colorado Springs their hospitality made us feel comfortable and at ease.  Colorado Springs is a beautiful location and we met many amazing veterans and new recruits during our time there.  Each professional and many from cities around the country to be part of this wonderful organization.  As I left I couldn’t help thinking about the word Team.

Teamwork

What does it take to work as a team?  

No matter whether you’re a police officer or firefighter it’s vital to understand teamwork.  Inside each station, shift or crew I find that teamwork relies on a few things to make the team strong.

  1. Respect for one another.
    1. The ability for an individual to place value on others.  How do you show it to others?     How do you earn it from others?
    2. “You can’t make the other fellow feel important in your presence if you secretly feel that he is a nobody” Les Giblin

  2. Shared experiences.  
    1. All police and firefighters have similar experiences.  Attacking a fire or saving a life is the same no matter where we’re at.
    2. In order to succeed all must have an investment in your mission and all must believe in each others experiences.
  3. Trust
    1. Developing trust through your shared experiences.
    2. Trusting others with your life.
  4. Giving before receiving
    1. Developing a foundation of friendship relies on your ability to give first.
    2. Listen to others.  Ask them questions
  5. Enjoy the moment
    1. During difficult times remember we’re all in this together.
    2. In addition to having respect for another, your shared experiences, trust and an ear to listen is to enjoy the moment.  It’s gone before we know it.

I want to thank Colorado Springs Fire Department for a very enjoyable event.  I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Brian Benedict.com

Pictured above: Brian Benedict with Connersville, Indiana Police Department Officer Dax Gunder


If it was’t for Police and Fire Insurance I’m not sure I would’ve ever met Dax and his family. Although I did see him at a few of my music gigs but that’s another story. I can remember getting to know him and the other officers as I filled out claims and visited second and third shifts. With a little more time under his belt Dax is now protecting the citizens of Connersville on first shift.

With a limited amount of officers, Connersville Police is facing similar scenarios as many others throughout the united states. A lack of morals, conscience and respect is making it more and more difficult and dangerous for these guys to keep us safe. But like many officers around the country Dax has a vision.

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He’s currently getting his MBA and is focused on the future. With all the challenges they’re faced with it’s important to remember that the greatest asset is you. It’s your mind. Staying focused. Creating a future goal and going for it.

Hope is a powerful tool to forward progress and attitude. If you feel stuck, if you feel down and depressed with your current situation you can change it by establishing a goal.

After establishing your goal don’t forget to write it down. If its only in your mind you’re more likely to stop doing what it takes to get there.

Thanks to Dax and all of the other officers within the Connersville Police Department. I’ve made great friends and lasting relationships. Be safe brothers. Call me if you need me.

Your friend

Brian

BrianBenedict.com

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