Element 1 – Receive and Understand Information
Receiving, understanding and correctly acting on information from another party is the fundamental process of communication. Without one or more of these elements a communication breakdown is likely. Effective communication is an integral part of a security officer’s daily life. Without understanding the information transmitted, the security officer wouldn’t have any idea of how to effectively carry out the task at hand.
Information may be communicated to a security officer in many different ways. It may be in the form of:
- Pre-shift briefing conducted by team leaders or colleagues
- Two-way radio
- Mobile phone
Information may also come from less obvious sources:
- Numerical or statistical
- Visual or graphic
Once a security officer receives information, he / she should check what is being communicated against the assignment instructions. This simple action can reduce any confusion about the tasks that need to be carried out during the shift.
Working as a security officer requires a flexible approach which may mean the ability to receive information from a variety of channels and relating to a variety of topics. Information could relate to:
- Assignment instructions
- Work tasks
- Members of the public
- Hazards or incidents
- Occurrences and unusual events
In an operational environment, the assignment instructions that a security officer could receive may be developed from:
- Assignment objectives and timeframes
- Call for assistance
- Communication equipment and procedures
- Instructions from client
- Instructions from the supervisor or colleagues
- Legislative requirements relating to work tasks
- Occupational health and safety (OHS) including use of personal protective clothing and equipment
- Procedures in the event of communication loss
- Resource and equipment needs
- Use of force
- Use of workplace documentation
It is estimated that between 55% and 70% of communication is non-verbal. The ability to read and understand non-verbal communication (body language) is a valuable asset for a security officer. It can offer the opportunity to proactively address a situation before it gets out of hand.
There are some basic rules in understanding body language:
- Different cultures have different rules, so beware of becoming locked into believing that there is only one possible meaning for a given body expression.
- Make sure you understand the rules of body language so that the message you are trying to communicate is clear, especially in situations when it is hard to hear the spoken word part of communication, such as a nightclub. Be aware of your hands, legs, stance, head position and eyes.
- Apart from keeping an open mind when you observe others, you also need to constantly update your non-verbal information about other people; so be aware of their constant movements and what their body language is saying.
In order to understand the full essence of communication, you must add the spoken word, the way it is spoken and the body language associated with that verbal communication. In western culture there is an emphasis on establishing eye contact and noticing body positioning. Both these aspects are very important in communicating and establishing rapport. It is also important to notice what else is going on; in particular, the three aspects of the client’s body state (tension, energy, emotions).
As reading body language is not an ‘exact’ science, it is important to practice as often as possible. Practicing even when you are not working as a security officer will help to build up your own library of knowledge of non-verbal communication.
Voice tone affects the quality of how we speak or say the words; a person’s tone indicates their emotional and physical state. If the tone of voice is consistent with the spoken words, it will indicate that the person is ‘feeling’ what they are saying.
The volume of the voice when we speak (loud, soft or anywhere in between) is also a major part of our communication. Vocal volume is usually associated with emotional or physical states of the communicator. Some examples are:
This can also create problems when a security officer is talking to the customer. If the wrong speed for the message being conveyed is used, the message may not be understood. Where a security officer asks an intoxicated customer to leave the premises and speaks too fast, the drunken customer may not be able to ‘listen’ at the speed being used.
- A slow rate may be used for clarity
- A faster rate may indicate anger
Being a good listener is a great asset for people working in the security industry, particularly when working in crowd control. The way to become a better listener is to practice “active listening”. This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying, but more importantly to try and understand the total message being sent.
An officer must pay attention to the other person very carefully. He / she cannot become distracted by what else could be going on or by forming counter arguments to make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can the officer lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these barriers contribute to a lack of listening and understanding. There are five key elements of active listening:
- Pay attention
- Show that you are listening
- Provide feedback
- Defer judgment
- Respond appropriately
When receiving information, it is good practice for a security officer to confirm and summarise the understanding with the relevant persons. For example:
- Clients including young people
- Members of the public
- Specialist personnel
- Suppliers of equipment or products
- Technical experts
Summarising and clarification includes identifying areas of uncertainty or misunderstanding, and asking the relevant persons to explain.