The 3 Cs of Communication

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash.

Communication is at the core of our survival, a necessity no matter your job or lifestyle. Our ability to communicate, and how well we do it, largely determine our success.

You’re on the road and you need to tell your partner something but suddenly you only speak Russian. You try to tell him about the next call but he doesn’t understand a word you say. How effective is this call going to be? Will you even be able to do your job? What if there were an emergency?

Even when we speak the same language, we may struggle with communication. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to communicate effectively every time, knowing you’ll be understood clearly?

These three Cs of communication can enhance your job and your whole life if applied correctly.

Let’s get right to it.

The Three Cs of Communication

These tips are for first responders but, as effective communication is important in all areas of life, these tips will prove helpful to everyone.


First responders know how crucial it is to be clear and concise. They have to get the message across quickly and clearly so there’s no mistake and the job is done right away. There’s little to no room for misunderstanding.

“Male suspect, about 5’10”, red hoodie, leaving the scene headed south on Main Street…”

Just the facts are stated clearly in short, easy-to-digest pieces. There’s no time for second-guessing when seconds count. You want your responders safe and they want to do their jobs well.

The same goes for communicating with civilians. Dispatchers, especially 911 dispatchers, keep instructions clear and short.

“I need you to unlock your front door. Do it now and tell me when it’s done.”

There is a command and an end-point. The dispatcher needs to know when the action is complete. This takes the place of being present and witnessing the action. Law enforcement on scene can simply repeat themselves until they see the action is done.

“On your knees, hands on your head. On your knees! Hands on your head!”

Outside the Job

This is all part of training, but how can it be applied outside the job?If you’re beating around the bush to ask for a day off or for someone to help you move a couch, the same concept applies. You want to get to the point even if there’s a short explanation first. Keep your communication short and sweet.

“I have an appointment next week and I waited weeks to book it. Am I able to take the day off?”

“Are you around this Saturday or Sunday? I need help moving a couch.”

It doesn’t matter the need, but getting to the point avoids confusion and gets an answer faster. It helps the other person to know exactly what the conversation is about so they can understand the details better and discuss from there.

It’s important to note to take caution with sensitive issues. You wouldn’t be too direct with bad news or disturbing topics if it would come off cold. While clarity is an important communication skill, be sure to keep context in mind.


Context matters. Situation matters.

Each type of communication has its parameters. Each situation has its nuances. You need to know what’s acceptable to say, when to say it, and how to say it.

There are times when a firefighter on scene will walk over to the chief to report something. There are other times when that same firefighter will yell instead when an emergent event occurs or is about to occur. That firefighter determines if the information is just a report or urgent enough to shout.

The job may require subtlety by communicating with hand signals. Whether the environment is too loud or they need to remain silent, hand signals communicate where to look, when to stop, and where to go. This could be life-saving communication in either a fire, hostage situation, or even war.

Outside the Job

There’s protocol for all kinds of communication on the job, but what about everywhere else?

You wouldn’t email someone that you’re running five minutes late. You wouldn’t text someone that a loved one passed away. And you probably wouldn’t call your boss in the middle of the night to ask about a seminar happening next month.

You have times and ways that are appropriate for different communications. Call it tact, but sometimes the lines are blurred. There isn’t a universal protocol for how to communicate in every relationship and every situation.

You need to use your judgment and the best way to do that is to consider the context. Who is getting this information? What’s your relationship? Professional, personal, romantic…? Is it long-term or brand-new? Is the topic sensitive or can you joke?

With all this to consider, there’s one more thing that helps. How would you want this same thing communicated to you from a person in a similar relationship?

As you get better at assessing context, you get better at finding the right way to communicate in different situations and with different people in your life.


Control, specifically self-control, is an essential aspect of first responder communications. There are protocols and chain-of-command rules. Responders need to remain calm under pressure, in an emergency, regardless of emotional duress. It’s not an easy task and can be a breaking point for many responders.

First responders see the ugliest of humanity and must continue their duties despite the scene and situation.

[Note that self-control does not—does NOT—mean burying everything like it didn’t happen. If something affects you, you need to deal with it. Otherwise, you risk it festering and eating you up inside. This can lead to complex PTSI and all its mental health effects. Remember, we’re here to reduce first responder suicides and the “I’m-fine” lie and support the mental health of all first responders. That said, let’s talk about what we mean here about control.]

Responders can’t react harshly when communicating on the job. It’s important to remain professional no matter the response from civilians. The situation may call for urgency, but not panic. Somberness but not hysterics. Responders remain professional in their communications with the public, dispatch, and their commanding officers to do their jobs well. A healthy responder will deal with his or her emotions and trauma, and it will be done at an appropriate time and place after the job is completed.

Outside the Job

So how does that translate to everyday life?

Ever seen a toddler tantrum? Little ones lose control. Emotions rise, and body and voice react. As he ages, he learns to use his words to explain his thoughts and feelings and communicate his needs.

Tantrums come at all ages, but if you restrain yourself (try a tactical breath), you gather your thoughts and words and communicate more effectively. You prepare what you need to say and allow yourself time to think about the situation. Consider your perspective and listen more closely to the other person. You could be missing information. Be ready to pivot your choices based on new information.

Control also involves knowing when to deal with something before it affects you outside your control. Whether you decide to start doing physical therapy for a bad knee before it gets worse, or you decide to start therapy before your stress spirals and controls you, taking control sooner is better.

Emotional control leads to better emotional intelligence, active listening, and openness to change. It opens doors in your mind to let other perspectives in. It builds trust in relationships and self-confidence in yourself. This can be life-changing.

Better Communication Starting Now

There are many ways to apply those three Cs, but you need to consider your situation.

What’s your context? Are you in control of yourself or are you letting your circumstances determine your thoughts, actions, and reactions? Are you communicating effectively with those around you on the job and at home?

Strong communication skills make a better responder. There’s always room for growth. What can you do to do better today?

[For more communication tips, check out this article from Better Up. If you want help assessing your communication skills, reach out to us at FRC today.]