Communication 101

I am cruising along at 7,000 feet above ground level over southern Georgia on an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) plan. I just checked in with Jacksonville Center, the air traffic control (ATC) station for the area and received the usually cordial and always comforting “Good morning,” accompanied by the current local altimeter setting.

Generally speaking, there are three ways to fly in the United States: no flight plan, Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight plan and IFR flight plan.

No Flight Plan
Pilots can fly without a flight plan while in visual conditions (they can see outside) in most parts of the country.

VFR Flight Plan
If the pilot files a VFR flight plan, he intends to remain in visual meteorological conditions but he’ll be in contact with ATC.

IFR Flight Plan
Flying on an IFR flight plan, the pilot is authorized to enter instrument meteorological conditions (clouds, fog, etc.), and he stays in constant contact with ATC.

As I am on an instrument flight plan I am handed off from one controller to the next as I move in and out of their respective sectors, much like the baton in a relay race. There is a lot if moisture in the air (read clouds) due to the tropical storm, Alex, in the Gulf of Mexico.

The ATC system in the United States is a marvel if engineering. As a pilot who frequently flies in the “system,” I can assure any non-pilots that you, as a passenger in that baton, are in good hands.

There is much to learn from the way ATC operates relative to both business and personal life. Hospitals recognized the effectiveness and safety of the ATC and crew communication systems and the underlying principles were adapted for use in the operating room not too long ago. After implementing these new systems the number of mistakes (wrong limb amputations, wrong organ removal, operating on wrong patient, wrong meds given to patient, etc.) was reduced dramatically.

Misunderstandings are far too frequent and generally preventable. And, as with all things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Below you will find starting points for becoming a more effective verbal communicator:

1. Speak clearly. Enunciate.

2. Listen carefully when others speak.

3. Acknowledge instructions. Repeat them if you tend to miss steps.

4. Look to phrase things in a way that they are most likely to be understood by the recipient.

5. Never say or write anything that you don’t mean. You’ll invariably regret it later.

6. Beware of emotional outbursts. They’re usefulness is limited. Bite your tongue if necessary.

7. Say it once whenever possible. Repeating things unnecessarily trains those around you not to listen to the first few times you say it.

8 thoughts on “Communication 101

  1. Leni

    Thanks for these great points take to heart and this reminds me of a dear friend who lived by a motto in his communication and it was only speak if it is kind, necessary, or true.


  2. Colin

    I’ve found that improving the clarity of my communication is something that has paid tremendous dividends in my life. Reading this list gives me some great ideas for improving it further. Thanks!


  3. Troy

    Communication is an “art” that so many take for granted. It can be refined if practiced just like any art form. Some people have a more natural gift relative to this art and some have to work much harder, but it is a worthy practice. These are great tips, there is no area in life that could not benefit from our conscious efforts to become better communicators. Our children in the days of texting and e-mail would benefit from our examples of the “old fashion” conversation. Like you have said in previous entries, everyone could benefit from some basic flight training, there are so many life principles hidden in that instruction! Thanks for the photo!


  4. DeeDee

    Helpful tips to remember and put into practice. As a parent I see how these steps can teach my children to be better listeners and communicators if I am practicing them myself when communicating with them.


  5. Brenda Ruppright

    Awesome picture! There is nothing like flying in the clouds or seeing the clouds at that altitude, it really is a peaceful feeling.

    There is always something we can learn in communicating with others, thanks for the helpful tips.

    To all a great day!


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