Communications: Be Clear, Concise, and Compelling

RescueDigest Rules of Three: Clear, Concise, & Compelling

RescueDigest is about improving three things and emergency services: Leadership, Education, and Career Development.

What is the key to improving all three of these things?

Communication! So that’s the focus of today’s Rule of Three. The 3 C’s as your framework for communication.

If you’ve ever walked away from a conversation and felt, “It was so clear in my head, why didn’t come out that way?”, “I thought I was clear, why didn’t they understand?”, or, “They clearly heard me. Why didn’t they do what I told them?” you certainly aren’t alone. Whether you are having a conversation over coffee, teaching a classroom, or giving commands on the fire ground  we’re sending an administrative email, you are communicating with people because you want to get them to do something. In order to make that happen you have to give whomever you are communicating with:
  • 1) Exactly what you want them to do

  • 2) The opportunity to do it

  • 3) The reason to do it.

This is being clear, concise, and compelling.

It takes practice, but the simple framework will help you become a much better communicator, not just to be heard, but to get done what you want done. 

You won’t always have the the time to carefully craft your communication. In emergency services, in the middle of a call you don’t have the luxury of sitting back and thinking about precisely what you want to say. Sometimes you will have to look back on those urgent communications and critique yourself. Other times, especially for written communications, your best bet is to examine what you’re saying carefully for those three simple criteria, clear, concise, and compelling.

Clear: Is each thought that you were trying to get across presented in a clear and separate statement? You may want to connect ideas. That’s OK. You just need to make sure that each thought, and each connection, is clear so that the person with whom you were communicating can understand you each step of the way.

Concise: We all want to be heard. When we are communicating about something that excites us, we REALLY want to be heard. That leads to a lot of talking or typing. You have already taken the time to make sure that each thought is clear. Now, pick the overall point of your communication and get rid of any thoughts that are not crucial to that. This won’t be your only communication ever. You’ll have time to talk about that other stuff, but if this is important, you need to get to the point and make that the only point. Otherwise, people will be confused at best or they will tune you out at worst.

Compelling: This is perhaps the most important step, and the most difficult. The reason that you’re communicating is to get someone to do something, so you both have to understand why they are going to do it. Sometimes it is pretty clearly implied. “Get that picture and three-quarter line to the second floor.” Because we need to put that fire out. Most times, we have to avoid the trap of thinking about why WE want them to do something instead of why THEY might want to do it. If your communication isn’t compelling they may get around to what you want at best, but more likely will forget that you even said anything.

Clear, concise, and compelling is a framework for all great communication, but how exactly you can achieve that will be different for every communication.

  • How will you know what to do?
  • How will you know if you’re hitting the mark?
  • How can you get feedback on how you’re communication is getting across?

Well, that’s the other side of communication, isn’t it? Listening.

About romduck

Rom Duckworth is a dedicated emergency responder, author, and educator with more than thirty years of experience working in career and volunteer fire departments, hospital healthcare systems, and private emergency medical services. Rom is a career fire captain and paramedic EMS Coordinator for the Ridgefield (CT) Fire Department and director of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. Rom holds a master’s degree in public administration, is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program, and is the recipient of the NAEMT Presidential Award, American Red Cross Hero Award, Sepsis Alliance Sepsis Hero Award, and the EMS 10 Innovators Award. Rom is the author of "Duckworth on Education," as well as chapters in more than a dozen EMS, fire, rescue, and medical textbooks and over 100 published articles in fire and EMS magazines. A member of the NAEMT Board of Directors, as well as other national and international advocacy and advisory boards, Rom continues to work for the advancement of emergency services professions. Contact Rom via