A lack of clarity in communication can damage existing or potential relationships. Were too many assumptions made? Were too few questions asked? Making and sticking to a conversation plan is key to maintaining clear goals for the conversation. Especially in difficult situations, having a well-defined written goal is at the center of a web of questions and rhetorical strategies to foster clear communications. A conversation plan can help negotiate the level of agreeability and directness that is appropriate for a certain situation. For example, seeking a collaborative effort in investigating a potential oil spill with an operator would be easier with a more agreeable and less direct approach. However, this is not appropriate in all situations and would depend on the goal at hand.
Potential issues relating to directness or accusations can be avoided or worked around by asking questions. It is appropriate to prepare several questions before a difficult conversation, but something resembling an interview script may be more of a problem than an asset. Likewise, active listening will raise additional questions in your mind, and you will find places to ask for clarification that aid in your understanding. Asking questions also shows the other party your engagement in the conversation and that you care about what they are saying. Taking notes is another way to indicate that what someone is telling you is valued. Making note of a follow-up question, rather than interrupting the other person in the middle of their explanation, allows you to remember areas to probe for further understanding while at the same time showing respect. Productive lines of questioning can help direct and structure a conversation to achieve goals in a natural way
An oil and gas company and a regulatory agency have different primary goals. The company’s primary goal is the profitable production of oil and gas. The regulatory agency’s goals may be the efficient use of the region’s energy, land and mineral resources while protecting the environment and health and safety of its residents. The agency’s goals necessitate the enforcement of regulations that apply to the oil and gas company. Yet these organizations must be able to work together. In a conversation between representatives of these two groups, clarity and productive questions could help reveal similar or overlapping secondary goals, common or divergent expectations and potential areas for compromise and cooperation.
The key to growing and maintaining any relationship is being clear and direct about goals while maintaining an atmosphere of authenticity and honesty. A good spokesperson should know their organization’s policies, stay within the scope of their responsibilities and embody their organization’s identity. Equally important, the spokesperson must tell the truth and be transparent.1
The subsequent topics of this lesson cover many areas for speaking, writing and representing yourself with different audiences and with different people. In this video, we hear the regulatory perspective on the importance of communications.
Communication & Field Inspection – Bill Sydow – Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
Communication is perhaps maybe the most important skill that anybody can have, but I think certainly field inspectors. And this would be why: If we find something wrong, we need to be able to communicate that pretty quickly and effectively to the right people. We don’t need to be mad about it, but we do need to contact them. I think it’s always better, maybe you can’t do it face-to-face, but telephone would be the next best thing. You know, you can lose a lot in nuances. I mean, we’re on camera today, and you have physical, you can see body language. That comes across when you’re face-to-face. It doesn’t do it so good on the telephone, and when you begin to write letters or even emails, now you can even lose more. So to me, communication is really an important part of being an effective field inspector.
1. Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium. (n.d.). What makes a good spokesperson? Retrieved 10/25/2020, from http://ilpanflu.niphc.us/planning-and-preparing/crisis-communication/what-makes-a-good-spokesperson
Images: “DP1M2389” by David Law licensed under CC BY 2.0