Effective communication – key to success

  • Published
  • By Maj. Doric Dagnoli
  • 341st Space Wing Command Post
Interpersonal communication is the foundation of human interaction. In fact, the importance of communicating clearly and concisely can hardly be overemphasized. In fact, one could argue that in a military setting, especially one where the world's most powerful weapons are operated, maintained and secured, the ability to communicate directions clearly is the foundation of doing the job right. 

While the principle of communicating - that it is a two way process of giving and receiving information through any number of channels - is simple to understand, in reality, communication itself is very complex. Have you ever been a part of the communications exercise where a number of people are placed in a circle, a message is given to an individual and the message is passed from one person to the next all the way back to the original recipient? More often than not, when the message returns to the original recipient, the message is different from the original. Sometimes, dramatically different. The reason for the change is simple. Each person has an inner "filter" which he or she uses to interpret what was said to them. Through the filtering of the information from person to person, not only do the words of the message change, but the actual meaning of the phrase often changes as well. The inner filter I'm referring to can be illustrated by a story I was once told: 

Two old acquaintances, who hadn't seen each other for years, were walking down the street together, renewing old times. "Just a minute," said one, "I think I hear something," and turning a loose paving stone over he liberated a cricket which was chirping merrily away. "Why, that's astounding. Of all the people on the street at this hour, hurrying from work, you alone hear the cricket above all the traffic noises." "My friend," said the first. "I learned a long time ago that people hear in life only what they want to hear. Now, the noise of traffic has neither increased nor decreased in the past few moments, but watch." And as he finished speaking he let a silver half dollar fall from his pocket to the sidewalk. Everyone within an amazingly large hearing distance stopped and looked around. 

You see, each individual comes with his or her own set of life experiences, which mold the way they hear and act on information. Now you may ask, how can we ever get anything done properly if the message is always skewed. The answer is as simple as the concept of communicating itself. Remember, the principle of communicating is a two-way process. Too often, we allow communication to be a one-way affair. Two methods for ensuring communication remains a two-way street is by repeating the message to the giver, to ensure we have it right, and by asking the clarifying question, to ensure we understand what is expected of us. While it may take an extra moment or two to get the message out, at least the right message will be received and acted on. 

The concept of clear communications is vital to our military operations. While the tools we use to communicate evolve through the use of technology, the concept of communication has not changed. Remember, communication is a two way street and in order for the flow of communication to be as effective as possible, both lanes need to be utilized.