Communicate right or forever hold your peace

There is no shame in my game when it comes to pushing the power of the female specialists in this industry. I am very vocal in the power of women in this industry. Hidden in the posts and comments on the social media pages are some real GEMS in this industry and if you can get beyond that the hair and pretty faces you wil uncover a gender of renaissance specialists. Last month I featured Jocelyn Bearden who blogged on proper attired for the female specialist. Jocelyn kept her bio specific to the context of the blog. What she didn’t tell you is that in 2001 after becoming the Maricopa County Arizona amateur champion she became a professional boxer, licensed in the State of Nevada. Yes you read that correctly.


Today I want to feature another renaissance female specialist that I have been watching closely as she sparred with the men on the NABA facebook group. She held her ground against some of the more aggressive and less discreet men on the page. We spoke offline on many occasions on industry matters and her concern about coming off in a negative, less appealing way in th eyes of the decision makers. Somewhere along the communications I assisted her in molding her resume and bio to be industry specific. Upon first review my eyes widened, but not surprised to see that this female specialist is an academic dynamo. I present to some and introduce to others Donna Avengine. I want to feature just a SNIPPET of Donna’s resume so that you can see her dedication to the Craft:

2012 7-day EPI Providing Executive Protection (PPS)

5-day EPI Protector’s Pistol Course (Armed PPS Status VA)

4-day Front Sight Defensive Handgun

1-day Panther Protection Services Advanced Handgun for EP

5-day ICON Celebrity/VIP Protection

10-day ICON Advanced Executive Protection, Advanced CPR & AED

2011 NRA Instructor Certification Courses for the following: Defensive Handgun, Basic Pistol, Personal Protection in the Home, Refuse to Be a Victim

3-Day Force Options Advanced Defensive/Tactical Handgun

3-Day Force Options Defensive Handgun Instructor Certification Course

2010 6-Day Force Options Executive Protection Course

2-Day Force Options Private Multi-firearms Course

4-Day Defensive Handgun Front Sight/2-Day Advanced Handgun

2-Day Advanced Tactical* (*Graduate level status required for acceptance)

2009 4-Day Front Sight Defensive Handgun Front Sight/2 Day Advanced Handgun

4Day Front Sight Defensive Handgun/2 Day Advanced Handgun

2008 4Day Front Sight Defensive Handgun

I would never want to minimize Donna’s dedication to her training but there is another part of her background that is a HUGE “Separator” for her in this industry. Donna has a Bachelor of Science and her Master of Science Degrees from the University of Washington in Speech-Language Pathology. One, if not the most, overlooked skill needed in this industry is the ability to communicate. Before a client is secured, before a detail is had, all roads lead back to some form of communication. Contracts, emails, phone calls and one-on-one client meetings are ALL communications. Many, including myself, have needed some assistance in communications. In the past when I taught classes, I was told that I spoke too fast. That is a communications issue. What I have asked Donna to do is write today’s blog on communications.

In the EP industry, there are a multitude of opinions related to which skill sets are most necessary to achieve success. Many specialists, seasoned and “newbies” alike are even willing to argue their point of view over which particular skill set is more important over another. Few, however, will disagree about the relevance or the importance of strong communication skills in order to be an effective and successful EP specialist.

Strong communication skills are more than a matter of knowing the correct words to say and saying them in a clear manner that is understandable, though at a minimum those are the foundational skills. If an individual struggles to use proper grammar (syntax) then their ability to communicate specific meaning (semantics) will be compromised. Similarly, if a specialist sounds as if she/he has a mouth full of marbles when speaking (articulation) it doesn’t matter if they are stating the most profound thought ever known to man. It won’t be received and thus will be rendered useless.

Some, but not all, of the issues surrounding a specialist’s ability to effectively communicate are related to understanding the different communication styles which exist including High Context versus Low Context, Direct versus Indirect, and Formal versus Informal communication styles.

Cultures with “high context” communication styles combine both verbal and non-verbal signals to convey the meaning of their intended message. This requires the listener to have solid listening as well as strong observational skills in order to read body language to support their understanding of the intended message. As one might imagine, this could prove problematic for the specialist in the front seat of the vehicle communicating with a principal in the back seat. This might be particularly true if the specialist comes from a culture of “low context” communication which is a style with more reliance on the specific meaning of the words they use in order to convey meaning. Examples of “high context” cultures are most countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America, while “low context” cultures include the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavian countries.

Another communication style impacted by background or culture is “direct” versus “indirect” communication. Direct communication is means the specific and true meaning of the message is contained within the words spoken or written. Indirect communication means the true intentions are hidden or at a minimum covered by “flowery” language. Individuals who prefer a direct style of communication prefer to deal with conflict head-on. They believe that if you discuss everything up front that conflict can be avoided or rectified. This is in direct contrast to individuals with an indirect communication style. These individuals are often part of a culture who believes it is important to maintain harmony and therefore they prefer to avoid conflict. Rather than stating opposition openly, these individuals will use passive language or will have the situation “handled” by a third party in order to avoid disrespecting or embarrassing anyone publicly. Cultures with an emphasis on direct communication styles include Americans, Germans and Israelis. Cultures with an emphasis on indirect communication styles include Asia, Middle East, Africa and South America.

While there is little attention given to teaching communication skills in the EP industry, competency using spoken and written language to communicate with a principal, other team members, or outside entities one might encounter in the role of specialist can significantly impact the success one achieves and the types of details a specialist might get assigned to. At a minimum, a specialist should have an understanding of the cultural differences which might impact how they should communicate with their principal as well as with other team members if they are working with a diverse group of individuals from differing cultural backgrounds.


  1. Einar Myklebust

    Impressive resume, and a very good blog. Verbal communication is one of the often overlooked skills in most of society, not just EP. A point not often mentioned in communication is also tailoring what you say to whom you are addressing. I have seen many an eloquent and riveting lecture fall flat on its face, because the speaker used a language the audience he/she was speaking to did not understand the words used. Sometimes plain simple speak is what is necessary. It doesn’t matter how right you are if the person you are talking to doesn’t understand what you just told him/her Over speaking is just as detrimental as under speaking. And on a personal note to the author of this blog GO Huskies !!

  2. Cindy Sommer

    Great blog and so true. Communication skills – all that is included there…SO important. When starting a new contract and giving my speech to 50 people on my crew, my most important point that I try to convey, is usually about communication. Especially body language, speaking clearly and professionally and what your actions communicate about you, off duty. Thanks again for this – keep up the great work!

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