Communication is always a critical component of any human service. Never-the-less, in providing protective services where we are in close proximity to our clients for lengthy periods of time, it is imperative to understand what is appropriate to say, and equally as important to know when to say it.
This is an extremely important concept which it is often overlooked until it is too late. In my experiences, I have never been fired nor have had to fire anyone for not shooting well, or not performing a j-turn properly, etc. but I have most certainly been fired and have had to fire many for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. The ‘kiss of death’ for the protective agent or driver is to break the silence in the car… We have all been there, and we will all eventually learn to ’embrace the silence’ instead. The common phrase of speak only when spoken to is generally the best practice, but how about when the client wants some feedback or wants someone to talk to or commiserate with? How do we know what to say, and when to say it?
The first rule of thumb is this – If you think you are being awkward, you ARE being awkward. If you think you should keep quiet, KEEP QUIET.
The second rule to consider is that clients don’t want you to be their friend, but sometimes they want some one to listen, etc. This is not something any rule or general guidance will solve. This is the gray area in which you either have it, or you don’t. And ‘it’ is the incalculable skill of interpersonal communication. Good luck…
The third rule is to avoid ‘listening’ unless being spoken to. When a client asks you what you might think about a conversation they are having, express your lack of knowledge in what they are discussing. To the contrary, as soon as you are known to listen, it will be assumed you are always listening…
A good trick to ensure you have something safe to say, if and when a client asks you about something, …say a question about your background for example, is to have a couple of pre-selected stories ready to go. This way, the crazy story of what happened in the barracks doesn’t slip out.
Have an idea about something neutral to discuss, such as the city you are in, historical sites, etc. so if you have to talk about something you’ll seem useful. Avoid hot topics like religion, politics, 9mm va 45, etc.
Lastly, we need to know what to say to others, not just our principal’s. The best way to solve this is to anticipate questions from those who might ask, such as on-site staff, the client’s staff, civilians, etc. and have an appropriate response pre-planned. I.E. if someone who works at the hotel walks by you and says “Who are you and what are you doing here?” What is your answer going to be? Think of it ahead of time versus having to be creative in the moment. (which is never as smooth) An appropriate answer might be “I am on the staff of a guest here.” (note: not saying you are security, not naming names, etc.) And if pressed further, “I’m sorry, I’ll have to refer you to my boss, please standby and I will contact him/her.” Think up these generic responses to the various types of questions for the various types of people you might encounter. Remember, you can always tell them more, but you cannot tell them less once it has been said
I hope this helps, and hope this prevents some from making these mistakes. Please feel free to chime in on social media where you found this article.
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Joseph M. LaSorsa, CPP® is currently employed as a senior partner managing and conducting: Protective Operations Training Courses, Executive Protection & Bodyguard Services, Risk Management Consultations & Seminars, Workplace Violence Prevention Seminars & Intervention Services, Security Consultations & Seminars, Private Investigations and Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures with LaSorsa & Associates – an International Protection, Investigations & Consulting Firm.