Marines and journalists are alike in some ways, especially as compared to civilians I realized by reading Jeffrey D. Barnett’s column on post-war life. We expect clear, direct, accurate communication. Civilians’ roundabout talk frustrates us.
Journalists need the illuminating example, the “hook” upon which we hang the story. Yet most people talk in generalities. Soldiers can’t waste time on such fluff. Reporters have deadlines. Yet in the civilian life, notes Barnett, “everybody swaps stories and chats at work, but not on a deadline.”
Lives often depend on soldiers’ quick and clear communication. All journalists and their bosses who assign stories expect brevity and swiftness in assigning the story so maximum time can be spent on getting it done. We take orders. Give our word to get things done.
That’s why, in civilian life as a corporate division leader, I was incredulous when confronted with the amount of time people spent in meandering meetings and, worse yet, when individuals did not keep the agreements they made in those meetings - and were not embarrassed nor held accountable.
Then, of course, there’s the other conundrum, Barnett brings up that confounds journalists and soldiers: What punctuality means to some people in civilian life - and how different company cultures actually tolerate - even expect - tardiness, and divided attention from the top executives.
When we want to be productive we soldiers and reporters yearn for accountability. When talking, keep it short and simple.
Now I will get off my high horse and admit that there are downsides to such direct communication, as Dianna Booher suggests. This communication expert and wife of an Army colonel, describes the military style as:
• Direct, to-the-point
• Non-emotional, detached
• Prompt (in responding to questions)
• Decisive (in charge)
• Commanding, demanding, telling (not asking)
• Declarative statements (not questions)
• Rigid body language (at attention)
• Blank, non-expressive facial expression
Such an approach, I know first hand, can appear harsh and unfeeling to civilians – even to the wives of soldiers.
there’s the continuing friction between the techies and the sales folks, the
scientists and the promoters.
What are your communication hot buttons and how have they been reinforced or eased by the kind of work you do?