Good communication skills are very important for security officers. They need to communicate with a wide range of people, both orally and in writing.
Private security officers need to communicate with others to collect information, monitor situations, and prevent unauthorized behavior. They also need communication skills to present reports to concerned authorities.
In this blog, we review the important principles of communication in the private security sector and how they relate to security officers.
ROLE OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
The ability to communicate effectively is a necessary skill for security guards. It helps them adjust their behavior to different situations and defuse problems peacefully when required.
Security officers face a variety of situations in their day to day tasks. They are required to act stoically and professionally under all kinds of circumstances.
Lastly, a security officer must be intuitive and good at judging people’s motivations. Skills in negotiations and bargaining can help. They also need to present reports to their management team in clear terms so their delivery must be polished.
Private Security personnel uses different mediums for communicating with others. Oral, face to face communication is central in their role. They also have to present written reports and communicate with people by phone, by e-mail, through two-way radios and by video conferencing/recording.
A private security officer must be able to ask questions from different individuals, both orally and in writing, to obtain information. They also need to be perceptive enough to tell the difference between truths and lies. The officer should have the ability to ask follow up questions to clarify matters where things look suspicious.
A lot of communication uses non-verbal cues, such as body language, to identify what people are thinking. A capable security officer can make accurate guesses by looking at other people’s posture, gestures, facial expression and eye contact. Similarly, a security guard’s own posture and gestures can convey information about them.
Some organizations and employers have communication protocols for specific situations. For example, a private business may have guidelines on when to use fire alarms or how to escalate problems to superiors. Security officers may also need to be adept at using two-way radios and walkie-talkies.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNICATION
Some general principles that apply to all types of communications for security officers include the following:
- Be brief.
- Be clear.
- Be explicit.
- Be concise.
- Make sure you are understood.
- Do not be antagonistic or confrontational.
COMMUNICATION PRINCIPLES FOR SPEAKING AND DELIVERING REPORTS
Private security officers must consider several factors when presenting reports. Paying attention to these will give them an opportunity to be heard and understood.
- Private security is a serious matter. Communication should be kept formal and curt at all times. Joking around and comedy are not suited for security officers.
- Messages and reports must be delivered on time. Circumstance change constantly and any delays in providing information could cause the information to become outdated.
- Complete oral and written information should be provided to the concerned stakeholders with no omissions.
- The information should be easy to understand and presented in a clear message.
- The information should be kept concise and to the point.
- Security officers must avoid adding unrelated details in their reports. It is preferred to present factual information only and opinions should only be added if they are required.
- Messages must be kept accurate. The security officer must verify the information before presenting it to their superiors.
COMMUNICATION PRINCIPLES FOR LISTENING
Private security officers need to be good listeners. They must have some skill in reading body language and be observant when questioning suspects, witnesses and other people. Here is a list of principles to follow that can help security personnel become better listeners.
- Do Not Interrupt. Security officers are trained to wait until the speaker is finished before providing an opinion or feedback on what they’ve been told. Apart from being rude, interruptions also give the speaker a chance to stop and recollect what they are saying. When they are allowed to speak at their pleasure, people have a tendency to reveal a lot of useful information.
- Do Not Jump to Conclusions. While the deduction is useful in some circumstances, security officers must never assume that they know what the speaker is going to say. We, humans, have the ability to process information faster than others can say it, but our conclusions are not necessarily correct every time. Jumping to conclusions before the speaker has finished can leave an officer confused or make a wrong judgment call.
- Do Not Judge the Speaker. Some security officers form a judgment about a person based on their appearance, age, accent, tone, speed of delivery (talking too fast or too slow) or behavior. This can lead them to interfere with what the speaker is saying. In most situations, judging people in this manner backfires for the officer. Officers should focus on the content of the message, not on the speaker to get the right information out.
- Take Notes for Accuracy. If you are not good at remembering information or there is too much information to process, it is better to take notes. This is particularly useful when names, places, dates, or other factual information are involved. It will help you retain accurate information for a later time. It also helps show the speaker that you are paying attention and is a good way to eliminate distractions.
- Ask Questions. Asking the right questions and giving feedback is also important for listening. This helps the security officer build rapport with the speaker and helps them get information out of them.
NON VERBAL COMMUNICATION PRINCIPLES
Non-verbal cues can also help improve communication skills for private security officers. Some important principles of non verbal communication include the following.
- Eye Contact. Eye contact signifies a willingness to give attention and listen to the speaker. People tend to avoid direct eye contact when they are lying or lack interest in the conversation. Security officers must be focused and look at people in the eyes when they communicate. If an officer is talking to multiple people, attention should be shifted between different people while talking. It should be noted that the mouth is easier to control than the eyes. When someone is excited or anxious, they can keep tight lipped about it but their eye pupils usually dilate, which reveals the excitement.
- Facial Expression and Head Movements. The human face can express one or more than one emotion at a time. There are different degrees of smiles and frowns. A good security officer can make a reasonable guess on how a person is feeling based on their expression. Some people are quite good at hiding facial expressions so officers should look at additional clues. Head movements such as an up and down movement while listening indicates agreement. The left and right movement suggest the listener disagrees with the conversation. These movements can be very subtle during a conversation, but can be very helpful in understanding attitudes.
- Shoulder movements can also reveal information about a person. A person who is tense will have their shoulders tight and slightly higher. People who are relaxed or resigned have slumped shoulders.
- Arms and Hands. Arms and hands can also give signals about the person. Arms folded across the chest indicate defiance, an unwillingness to listen or a feeling of strength. Some people have a lot of hand and arm movements while talking, which reveals excitement or anxiety. If hands are trembling or fidgety, it shows nervousness. People with clenched fists show anger and a willingness to fight. Pounding the table is considered a sign of aggression and a way to assert dominance. Playing with hair while talking indicates shyness, nervousness or even attraction. Most of these gestures will be obvious to the observer and a good security officer can pick up nonverbal cues in their conversation.
- Leg and Feet. People who are attentive stand firmly on the ground with a little distance between their feet. Wider distance suggests they are about to move or bracing for an action. Someone who is more relaxed may cross their feet while standing or even lean against the wall. This indicates they are comfortable and in no hurry to leave. Normally, people keep their toes pointed towards the person they are talking to. If their feet are pointing in a different direction, it shows they are not interested in the conversation and want to walk away.
While communicating, security officers should be mindful of other people’s nonverbal communication as well as their own. More than 50% of communication is nonverbal and security officers must be aware of these principles to do a good job.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR SECURITY OFFICER BEHAVIOR
Private security officers must be trained on overarching communication principles that guide their on-job behavior. These principles must be drilled into them repeatedly until they become ingrained as second nature. These guidelines can be useful in a wide range of situations when dealing with other people.
Of course, there are other technical skills besides communication that are necessary for security officers. However, once we build the foundations of good communication principles, we can then begin to design procedures around them that meet the overall security goals.
- The security officer’s safety is the number one priority while communicating at work. They should not say or behave in any way that puts their own, or their colleagues’ security at risk while on the job.
- Private security officers are expected to take reasonable actions, not reasonable force when dealing with workplace situations. Their job is not to overpower people, but defuse situations that can lead to violence.
- Different situations require different communication strategies. In some situations, intimidation is the best course of action. In others, threatening people can make things worse and the officer must use a bargaining strategy to appease people.
- A private security officer is seen as a representation of the organization that they work for. Their actions and communication can make or break the reputation of the venue. They must behave in a professional, responsible manner when dealing with guests, visitors and customers.
- Private security officers must remain calm under all circumstances. Other employees and even management look to them for guidance on dealing with security issues and threats. A calm, collected attitude and careful communication are necessary for success in this career.
We discussed earlier that different situations call for different communication strategies. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Private security officers often need to adjust their communication styles to work in different situations with different audiences. For example, a security guard at a young adults’ night club will need to communicate differently compared to when they are working at a busy shopping mall during the day.
Security guards should be able to adjust their behavior and communication based on the situation. Assisting an injured individual requires different communication tactics compared to someone hired for crowd control
Effective communication ensures that a security guard is confident and assertive without getting confrontational with people.
No matter what situation they are presented with, security guards must communicate in a clear and concise manner. The tone, volume, and cadence with which you present a message can have a significant outcome in how it is received by your audience.
Tone, volume, and cadence are also important to mind when dealing with people over the telephone. Unlike face to face communication, you don’t have the benefit of eye contact, facial expressions and body gestures over the phone. People will interpret your message only by the tone of your voice and react accordingly.
Most private security guards have to interact with other people on their shift. These include employers, other employees, clients, customers, visitors and the general public.
It is highly advised to be courteous and professional in all manners of communication. This helps private security officers build rapport and trust with others.
If you act aloof and distant, people will avoid you as well. Strong interpersonal skills help security guards to connect with others, which can be very useful in defusing difficult situations at work.