Search and Rescue Hearing Hack

Today I have a hearing hack, a little trick for making communication work better.  To set the stage let me take you mentally down to the boathouse of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue.  You might remember I’m a volunteer member there.

Training on a variety of skills is an ongoing part of our activities.   One of the practices that we are reminded about over and over again is “Closed Loop Communication”. Here’s example of how it works.   

The navigator is the person responsible to guide the vessel safely and quickly to the destination.   The driver (helm) often can’t see much at all, especially when visibility is poor such as a foggy stormy night.  As you can imagine, the driver needs to understand clearly what the navigator decides to be a safe course based on his/her use of radar, charts, and other tools.  

So to help the helm know where to go, a possible line of communication might go something like this.

From navigator:  “Helm, Port 30″ (this simply means to turn to the left 30 degrees)

Loop is opened.

Then, from the helm:  “Roger. Port 30.”

Loop is closed.

And that’s closing the loop of communication. It lets the navigator know that the helm received and understood the message properly.

I think it’s obvious why is this so important!  Understanding and performing actions correctly can be a matter of life and death in search and rescue work.

It is also worth noting why this works well.  

First of all, we get each other’s attention by calling a specific person on the boat.  

Secondly, “we’re all on the same planet”, as I like to say. We’re all doing the same activity, our minds are in a similar frame of mind, and we’re all going in the same direction.  

Finally, it obviously works because the messages are being confirmed through repetition.  .

I’m sure by now you are thinking something like, “You don’t expect me to talk like that at home with my spouse do you?”  

Well, yes and no.  The extent to which we do it in search and rescue is not sustainable for daily life.  But some of the principles could reduce a lot of communication stress if used a little bit more.  

We think our loved ones are supposed to be mind readers because we’ve lived together for 30, 40, or 50 years.  Yet, strangely, the more familiar we are with each other the less we may actually be in tune to each other at times.  We’re in our own little mental worlds walking around with these whole packages of thoughts.

The bottom line is, there are no easy shortcuts when it comes to good effective communication. So I really challenge us, try applying these ideas a little bit more, some of the time, and watch what happens.  

Hope that helps, have a great day.

 

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