I’m guilty of occasionally letting my tongue slip and saying something I shouldn’t. Sometimes those slip ups involve the use of colorful language, and I’ll admit that I often reflect on how it impacts my perceived professionalism. Maybe it affects my credibility when I do that. Perhaps I lose my audience when they hear a flippant “bad” word come from my mouth. Regardless, I need to constantly practice using the right (professional) language to make sure I put my best foot forward.
Similarly, I have noticed how using certain words that are second nature to security-minded professionals can rub non-security personnel the wrong way and hinder efforts to introduce new safety tools into the fold. It’s as if “security speak” is a four letter word!
For example, have you ever tried to talk about use of force or threat assessments with administrators who don’t have security, military, or law enforcement experience? I can almost guarantee the only words they heard were, “FORCE” and “THREAT” without knowing the proper context or meaning behind what you were trying to communicate. Chances are, the administrator overreacted to hearing these “bad” words and completely shut down even though you were trying to make a solid case for upgrading your security equipment. From what I have seen and heard, using typical security verbiage with administrators is a sure-fire way to figuratively shoot yourself in the foot when you are trying to take steps to better protect your officers and the facility under your care.
If you want to be more effective in selling new tools to your administration, consider these three hot tips to avoid the perception of using “bad” language when talking about security matters with administrators.
- NEVER discuss “weapons.” – Not everything you carry on a duty belt has to be called a weapon. Security professionals like how it sounds to talk about “guns” and “weapons,” but oftentimes the items you use or carry are truly job-specific tools or devices. Speak about them as such and you’ll be less likely to feel that proverbial door slamming in your face. It is a lot less threatening to an administrator when you come to him or her with a proposal to purchase new “safety tools” as opposed to “weapons” for your officers. For example, when discussing the Pro V2 Enhanced Non-Lethal device in training, I always refer to it as a defensive tool, unit, or device since it is intended to help de-escalate incidents. Weapons are often intended to eliminate threats. That’s a different mission and carries a different meaning to non-security personnel.
- DITCH the security terminology – You already have a job at your facility, so there’s no need to puff your chest and show how much you know by using a bunch of terms that no one in the room has heard before. If you want to make a case for new equipment or security measures because officers (or staff) are being hurt, say it bluntly. You don’t need to dance around with flowery justifications like, “Our recent threat assessment analysis concluded that our physical security preparedness is lacking from inadequate coverage of our critical infrastructure and gaps in our access control protocols.” Save the shop talk for a different audience because administrators likely won’t be able to appreciate it and may be put off by what they perceive as posturing.
- Make SAFETY relatable – Everyone wants to feel safe, but not everyone appreciates the effort it takes to create a safe environment. The key is to help stakeholders or decision-makers feel what it means to stand in your shoes. For example, if you want to provide a tool (a Pro V2, for example) to your currently unarmed officers to decrease officer injuries, reduce liability, and enhance officer safety/confidence, ask administrators how they would react if they were an aggressor contacted by one of your site’s security officers. Put them in scenarios where the officer has to put hands on them. How would they feel? Would it make them more angry or uncomfortable? What if they were contacted by security from a safer, more comfortable distance instead of being touched? Would that “feel” less aggressive as opposed to grappling or punching someone? Once administrators start to feel and relate to the situation that you encounter each day, they may start to empathize with you and understand your perspective. That will help you more easily make your case for new equipment or procedures
As in life, it’s always a good idea to put your best foot forward by understanding your audience and smoothing your rough edges when presenting an idea or product to a group. If you can eliminate some of the “bad” words referenced above and help administrators relate to your cause, you’ll be more likely to get the equipment you need for your security staff.