Communication in aviation is standardized worldwide. We pilots learn how to communicate in the aeronautical radio training and take an exam for this. There are no full sentences, but rather phrases, for example: “Fly Heading 330”. The aviation language is a “command language” without filler words and distraction.
It is a very technical language without emotions, at least in most cases.
The “closed loop” is the DNA of the language in the cockpit.
Misunderstandings and mistakes should be avoided in the cockpit by the so-called “closed loop”, the “closed communication loop”.
In aviation we assure ourselves by a confirmation that the understood and reported back information is correct. Misunderstandings should be avoided. The communication in the cockpit is completely factual, value-free and very clearly understandable.
If during the flight the question arises, how something is meant, we say: “Say again”.
The aviation language (“Voice”) is used worldwide with an identical phraseology.
After the catastrophic accident on Tenerife with two jumbos in 1977, for example, the take-off clearance was reformulated and made binding for everyone. Since then, a precise differentiation has been made between “ready for departure” and “cleared for takeoff”.
In addition to all the tragedy, however, many accidents have ultimately led to today’s safety standards and making the aircraft one of the safest means of transport worldwide.
But communication is not only about listening to what my counterpart tells me, but also about UNDERSTANDING it and that is the important thing – not to interpret!
In aviation we say “Never assume”, never accept something without really knowing it.
If we translate this directly into professional and private life, some things would be easier.
Have you also already experienced situations when being in contact with someone where you have asked yourself the question – how did he or she mean it?
How often did you actually ask for? We would like to invite you to do this more often, especially in the current, rather demanding situation.
Of course, in our daily communication with our colleagues or families it is not possible for us to communicate in the way we do in a plane or helicopter.
“Here on the ground” we cultivate a way of communication that is also characterized by emotions, sensitivities and different perspectives and moods.
In addition, we use non-verbal communication (gestures, facial expressions, posture). And especially in these demanding times, in which we communicate professionally to a large extent online via Skype, Zoom etc., it becomes even more challenging to really realize what the other person means exactly.
In meetings and conversations we recommend the way “away from the problem, towards the solution”.
We often spend a lot of time with the definition and details of the problem.
It would be much more efficient to turn to the solutions more quickly.
In times of crisis and in challenging situations caused by stress the probability of misunderstandings increases.
Especially with the many digital meetings, for example, it is now even more important to clearly define and establish responsibilities: “Who actually does what by when?
When it comes to communication, the relationship with the conversation partner cannot be ignored. Whether it is a relationship based on partnership and equal rights or one characterized by one-sided dependence plays a special role in communication.
Often it is our communication patterns that catch up with us. Our communication style is shaped by our childhood, where we have developed, among other things, the inner drivers and certain beliefs. Becoming aware of these is already the first step towards a solution.
But what methods can we acquire to communicate more consciously and ultimately more clearly, objectively and value-free?
In addition to “active listening”, detailed questioning and a change of perspective are very effective ways to better understand and reflect the other person’s point of view.
Therefore it is worthwhile to really think in detail about how the situation looks from the other person’s perspective.
There are nice quotations on this, e.g. from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
“In order to see clearly, it is often enough to change the perspective of vision”.
Distance and a change of perspective can bring us more clarity and a different view of things in difficult situations. We can also repeat and paraphrase to ensure that we have understood our counterpart correctly.
We would like to invite you to observe yourself in the next days and weeks and when you have this moment where you ask yourself how your counterpart meant what you just said, have the courage to ask him or her again more precisely.
Or maybe you try something new in certain situations and break through old communication patterns that have not worked in the past.
Last but not least, Paul Watzlawik, a psychologist and one of the best known communication theorists, says here:
And if what you do doesn’t get you anywhere, then do something completely different instead of more of the same wrong thing!