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The 3 Elements of Effective Communication

I recently had the opportunity to develop and present a brand new and powerful presentation at the Western Safety Conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia ( It was titled: “Wolves in the Workplace – Identifying and Responding to Workplace Bullying.”
I passionately believe that whenever a speaker takes to the stage (or for those more modest events, stands at the front of the room), there are three fundamental criteria that must be met:
The speaker must EDUCATE, INSPIRE, and ENTERTAIN.
If the speaker doesn’t achieve this, then there is no connection with the audience.
If there is no connection with the audience, then there is no impact.
If there is no impact, then there is no change.
And that, I believe, is what the audience is seeking: Change—or why else would they be there?
After all, don’t you seek out experiences that you hope will gift you an entirely new lens to use when looking at the world?
I decided to connect the main lessons of my presentation with several aspects of police training that I had been exposed to during my 35-year policing career (both here in Canada as well as being a “bobby” in London).
By drawing parallels to my police training I knew that I would hit two of the three criteria straight away— Educate and Entertain were guarantees in my mind.
But would I Inspire?
Well, let me share one of those lessons with you and I’ll let you be the judge…
I had never handled a police-owned gun before I came to Canada, but having joined the New Westminster Police Department, I knew that I was going to be trained in the safe and proper handling of a firearm.
The first day of firearms training involved a group of police recruits from the various local police agencies gathering at the firearms range with the instructors. They initially wanted to assess our basic competency at using a firearm, so they had everyone gather on ‘the line’ for a ‘Point and Shoot’ exercise (just like the ones you may have seen in the movies). We very safely fired our bullets in a series of sequences at the paper target (the black silhouette outline) positioned 25 meters away.
Despite not having handled my own firearm before, I had always had brilliant hand/eye coordination so this exercise felt comfortable for me. I figured I’d be a natural! Once we shot the 50 bullets that we had been issued and every recruit replaced their firearms safely away in their holsters, the targets were brought back towards us on an overhead pully system.
I remember standing, awaiting my results, full of confidence that my black silhouette would be peppered with holes from my laser-like accuracy.
Unfortunately, my poised mindset was quickly shattered as the target inched closer and closer revealing that the holes were everywhere BUT the black silhouette!
And so, my first day of firearms training taught me a valuable lesson: Point and Shoot is SIMPLE.  It just isn’t EASY.
There are so many things that you have to get right in order for you to be accurate at using a firearm! I could shoot off (pun intended) a long list of bullet points (pun intended) to consider, but that’s not why I told you this story.
So back to my valuable lesson: I learned that the only way to get better, knowing I had a lot to think about when shooting, was to ‘practice, practice, practice.’
You may be wondering how firearms training relates to Human Resources. Well, think about how many times we need to have that ‘difficult conversation’ with that co-worker and how many times we assume it’ll be simple (much like my assumption at being able to hit a target).
After all, we communicate constantly, we’re naturals at it, we don’t need to practice, right?
Just like shooting a firearm, there are many factors that go into effective communication. But to simplify it a bit, let’s look at this equation:

blank frame and exclamation mark on white background – 3d illustration

You’ll notice there are just three elements for you to get right for proper communication to be achieved:

  1. The R stands for the RELATIONSHIP that you have with the person you are going to speak to. Make sure you understand the type of relationship that you have before you approach them.
  2. The M stands for the MESSAGE that you are going to share with them. What words will you use? Where will you talk to them? Have you even told the person ahead of time that you want to talk to them?
  3. The Co stands for the CONTEXT of the conversation in the first place. For whose benefit are you having this conversation?

Even though we think we are naturals, none of us are experts at good communication just because we do it often.
Think about the last important conversation you had with an important person in your life. Did you leave that conversation feeling like it was as perfect as can be? Or does this thought sound familiar:
Well that didn’t go very well. Perhaps I should have thought about what I was going to say BEFORE I opened my mouth!
Don’t wait until the target inches toward you to realize you’ve missed the mark.
Practice, Practice, Practice.


About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.

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