Effective Communication

  • Published
  • By Capt. Daniel Spiecher
  • 20th Space Control Squadron Det. 2

Ask any leader to summarize their experiences with communication, and be prepared to receive numerous examples of success and failure resulting from effective or ineffective implementation. The importance of effective communication is seen in our everyday lives across multiple professional disciplines. Despite the importance, most of us never give it a passing thought or place enough emphasis on the impact poor communications can have on our daily lives. An example of the potential impact loss of effective communication can have is easily seen by reviewing one of the worst aviation disasters to date: the loss of two Boeing 747s at Tenerife, Spain in 1977. After an extensive investigation, poor communication was identified as a contributing factor to the mishap. Internal flight deck communication suffered due to personnel experience levels, crew perceptions and language barriers between native and non-native English speaking flight crewmembers.

The results from the investigation helped identify industry deficiencies and pave the way for a NASA-endorsed program still in use today called Crew Resource Management. The overall goal of CRM is to improve communication amongst aircrew members within the flight deck, their respective interactions and the associated external agencies they communicate with throughout the execution of their duties. The success of this program is seen in many case reviews of avoided potential mishaps. Most of us will not be placed in situations that could have as disastrous of outcomes from failing to communicate effectively. However, this example shows how normal interaction can rapidly deteriorate if we do not take an active role in the communication process.

What are some ways to improve the effectiveness of our communication methods? Take the time to actively listen to the other party in your conversation on a daily basis. When time permits, prepare yourself to ensure you understand your audience. Parents do this daily through changes in delivery method, tone of voice, and structure of message between their children and their significant other. Adjust as necessary based upon the receiver’s body language; communication face-to-face requires an overall assessment to include how receptive the other party is to the message sent.  It is important to note that much communication today is done via electronic media. Most media we use on a daily basis foregoes the face-to-face interaction and limits feedback in the form of body language. Does your message content and/or structure change based upon delivery method?

Finally, feedback is necessary between both parties. Providing feedback helps ensure receivers understand the message sent, and it affords the person delivering an opportunity to adjust if miscommunication arises. It is important for all communicating parties to actively participate; do not let apprehension prevent you from asking for or giving feedback during interactions. If done properly, both parties can identify shortcomings in the interaction and improve upon future communication. Ask yourself the next time you interact with someone, whether it be face-to-face or via electronic means, did the message you intended to send truly reach the receiver?  If we can reach a point, where our answer to this question is consistently yes, the overall effectiveness in multiple areas of our professional and personal lives will be greatly improved.