Basic Communication Skills

All extracts are taken from the “Safer Doors” book. Published by Geddes and Grossett. Copyright laws apply.

Door supervisors need to use effective communication skills to enhance relations with the members of the public they come into contact with everyday. How they conduct themselves and how they communicate and interact with others will have a direct bearing on how the public see those door supervisors individually, and as a profession. They need to develop their interpersonal skills so that they can be used to their best effect.

Communication skills are all to do with the effectiveness with which we communicate meaning, guidance and intention to others, and of influencing their behaviour or potential behaviour.

Each time that door supervisors deal with a customer or others members of the public it is called an ‘encounter’. Door supervisors need to be aware of the appropriate attitude to adopt towards various types of people, and should take care in how they talk to them, and how they deal with different situations. Each encounter will demand and should achieve a reasonable response, and should reach a conclusion that is satisfactory to all parties concerned. Whilst it is accepted that not all encounters will end happily, the correct and conscious use of effective communication skills should keep incidents of aggression towards door supervisors to a minimum.

ATTITUDE
It is very important that supervisors adopt a positive and healthy attitude towards their work. Attitude is the state of mind with which you approach a situation. Your attitude life affects how you look, what you say, what you do, how you feel (both physically and mentally) and how successful you are in what you do. A positive attitude to your work can increase your chances of success, job satisfaction, safety and well being, chances of promotion and can even affect your life away from the workplace.

In all of their daily tasks door supervisors should endeavour to:-

  • Learn more about their work
  • Try to do a better job
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm
  • Be willing to accept changes
  • Understand others viewpoints
  • Respect the rights of others
  • Be dependable
  • Be honest
  • Be positive
  • Be fair
  • Accept justifiable criticism
  • Be a good listener
  • Be punctual
  • Be polite
  • Be cheerful
  • Be helpful
  • Be patient
  • Be loyal
  • Be open
  • Be constructive
  • Be consistent

As door supervisors deal with people and situations they have the opportunity to influence the attitude of the public. They should realise that to the person they are dealing with at any particular time they represent the whole profession. One of the most important factors in maintaining the trust and respect of the public, is that all door supervisors are seen to conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism. Supervisors must be constantly aware of the impression they are creating, and must strive to maintain a professional attitude at all times.

DISCRETION
When dealing with the many and varied types of incidents that door supervisors are likely to come across in their work, you will be required to make decisions as to what course of action needs to be taken.

Supervisors have fairly wide-ranging powers to help deal with these situations. They have powers of arrest, the rules of trespass and can obviously give words of advice to customers whose behaviour or actions are unacceptable to the house but do not warrant arrest or ejection.

Door supervisors are required to exercise a certain amount of discretion in the actions they choose, as there will be a variety of ways that they can deal successfully with an incident. Using discretion requires the selection of the best course of action, having recognised and considers all of the alternatives.

When using discretion you may, in certain circumstances, make a decision not to act in situations where you would usually be expected to. This failure to act might be seen as favouring or discriminating against certain individuals or groups, which could lead to accusations of not performing your duties correctly, or of harassment or corruption. For this reason door supervisors should ensure that such decisions are based on an objective consideration of all of the factors surrounding the event. You should if called upon be able to fully justify your actions, so that the grounds for the decision are appreciated.

When exercising powers of discretion, door supervisors should consider:-

  • Who they are dealing with
  • What the possible outcomes are
  • How the incident occurred
  • When and where the incident took place
  • Whether they should act or not
  • How they should act
  • How those actions will be seen

Discretion involves selecting the best course of action after identifying the considering all of the alternatives. Door supervisors are required to make informed decisions and to be responsible for their actions. They must understand the law, their powers and the extent to which their freedom to use discretion is limited by those laws and the rules of the premises.

The professional use of discretion if an essential part of door work, but the fair and reasonable application of the rule is also necessary to maintain the respect and support of the public.

EXPECTATIONS
We all have expectations about what reactions we will get from other people in certain situations. These expectations can be positive or negative, and can be based of accurate views of those people, or on inaccurate, false expectations based on prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination.

Stereotyping is having a set of beliefs about groups in society which is cased on insufficient and incorrect information, and which label people by how they look, dress, their occupation, class, gender or culture.

Prejudice is unfavourable opinions or feelings formed beforehand, without knowledge, thought or reason

Discrimination is when we act on our prejudices to discriminate between groups of people.

If door supervisors try to categorise people because of their assumptions, then they may be caught off guard when those people don’t react the way they are expected to.

Whenever door supervisors become involved in situations with other people they should:-

Make sure that any assumptions they make about the people are based on knowledge and not on a stereotypical idea of what they are like

Take note of what those people do and say, so that they can react accordingly

Acknowledge that individuals may well have expectations of door supervisors as well.

LANGUAGE
The way that door supervisors speak to people they come into contact with can either help or hinder them in their efforts to communicate their purpose.

You should speak confidently and politely to customers in a manner and in language that they will fully understand. If explaining a legal requirement to someone you should put it in plain speech so as not to confuse the customer with legal jargon, and should not try to use other jargon or phrases, which are exclusive to the job.

Do not use insulting terms or phrases to describe groups of people, ever to other supervisors. Some words exclude or undermine certain groups of people, reinforce stereotypes or carry negative undertones.

ENCOUNTERS ENTRY
The way in which you enter an encounter or situation will make a lot of difference as to how the parties concerned will receive you, and then how the encounter will progress. The success or failure of the encounter will often depend on how much you know about the situation and how you start the encounter. Door supervisors will sometimes come across situations where they do not initially understand what is happening or why, so it is important that they first of all gather sufficient information upon which they can make a decision as to how to proceed. Asking simple questions such as, “What’s the problem?” will usually be sufficient for one or more of the parties involved to try to explain what is going on.

It is at this stage that the people you are dealing with form their first impressions of you and what you will do. Depending on your approach they may feel that you are genuinely trying to help solve their problems, or that you are just going to throw everyone out of the premises.

Sometimes particular situations will require you to use your authority to calm the proceedings and to prevent problems from escalating, whereas at other times a friendly approach would be more appropriate.

Explaining your situation and telling the other parties what you would like to happen and why will often bring about positive results if they can see that you are willing to help.

DEALING WITH THE SITUATION
Having entered into an encounter, whatever it may be, your task is to try to resolve the situation to a successful conclusion. This may have to be done under difficult or stressful conditions depending on what is happening, and where possible you should also try to take into account peoples feelings and expectations as you are dealing with them.

Door supervisors need to listen properly during as encounter, a skill neglected by many people. The person talking to you will expect you to listen to them and to at least take an interest in what the have to say, even if the situation is not ultimately solved in their favour. You should show them respect by actively listening to them, being attentive and having patience and understanding. You can show a person that you are listening to them by maintaining eye contact with them, avoiding distractions and by asking questions to clarify what they are saying. Try not to interrupt them as they are putting their point across to you, as this might indicate to them that no matter what they say you have already decided the conclusion to the encounter.

Attempts should also be made to try minimise any embarrassment the person may feel when speaking to you. The way you speak to them can go a long way towards putting them at their ease.

It can cause further problems for door supervisors if a crowd gathers whilst they attempt deal with someone. Though not all of the people standing nearby will be hostile towards the supervisors as they deal with someone for a breach of the house rules, it is a possibility that you should be aware of. For this reason it is often better to try and deal with people in relative privacy if at all possible. Even if it just means asking a customer to come away from his group whilst you speak to him can be enough to prevent his mates from becoming involved in what you have to say to him on his own, which will reduce the chances of an aggressive reaction.

Door supervisors, like other people, do not like being considered wrong, or being accused of unjust behaviour. For this reason some supervisors find it difficult to apologise. We are all susceptible to making mistakes, whether it be giving someone wrong information or accusing the wrong person of some misdemeanour. In these circumstances as apology is not an admission of failure, and may even earn you some respect. If you have made a genuine mistake, offer a dignified but genuine apology.

One question often asked by new or inexperienced door supervisors is how formal they should be when speaking to customers and other members of the pupil. There is no absolute answer because of the different types of individuals you will be dealing with, and the many varied circumstances in which you will encounter them. Some situations will obviously demand a quite formal manner in order that supervisors can exercise the necessary authority and control when it is required, but at most other times an informal, friendly approach will be received better.

EXIT
Encounters can end in different ways, namely by enforcement when you have to eject someone from the premises, by resolution of a problem where perhaps you have warned someone about their behaviour and they have accepted the warning, by advising someone to help them solve their own problem, or by referral to an outside agency such as the Police if the problem needs to be resolved by someone away from the premises.

Whatever the outcome or result of the encounter, the idea should be that the other person goes away thinking that you are a good representative of the profession, as opposed to them leaving with a reinforced negative stereotype of door supervisors.

If you consider this every time you deal with someone, then you should find that less encounters end in aggressive or negative behaviour by the other person.

SAYING “NO”
Saying “NO” can be very difficult for some people. None of us like to feel unpopular, and most of us do not like getting an aggressive reaction when we say “NO” to someone else.

Part of door work involves saying “NO” to people. Refusing entry to drunks or to people who try to get in after the cut-off time all involve saying “NO”.

As long as you are correct and within your rights to say “NO” to people for whatever reason, then you should be able to do so without making excuses, feeling embarrassed, beating about the bush or having long winded explanations. The key to an assertive “NO” is to remember that you have the right to say “NO” without feeling guilty. Saying “NO” firmly and reasonably is quite acceptable to most people, and saying it becomes easier with practice, and saves a lot of worry and lack of self-respect later.

Identify situations that might require a “NO” answer

Practice saying “NO”

Prepare a polite but firm refusal

Don’t feel guilty about saying “NO”

You are refusing a request, not rejecting a person

A refusal does not have to be heavy, aggressive or hurtful

Use a definite tone of voice, don’t hesitate or sound insecure

Consider offering an alternative (another venue or another night)

Once you’ve said “NO” do not change your mind. If you get a reputation for backing down people will work on you until you do.

ACTIVE LISTENING
It is important that when dealing with customers and other members of the public, door supervisors listen properly to what is being said. If someone is trying to put a point across to you, take care not to pre-judge what they are saying. Let them finish their side before acting upon what they have told you. Deciding what to do before fully understanding what is being said is a sure way to jumping to a hasty conclusion, and consequently to taking the wrong course of action.

Active listening involves being open and unbiased as to what you are being told, listening properly to what is being said, interpreting and understanding what has been said, and then taking the appropriate action.

Be aware also that drunk, angry or distressed people often say things that they do not really mean, so supervisors sometimes have to try to ignore any insults or criticisms that are thrown at them, and try to concentrate on the real meaning behind what the person is trying to say.

If you cannot understand exactly what someone is trying to say to you do not pretend that you have. Ask questions of them until you fully understand what their problem is. Try to acknowledge their point of view, even if you do not agree with it. Supervisors need to fully understand what a problem is before they can even start to try to resolve it.

A good listener does:-

  • Make supportive eye contact
  • Show interest
  • Use encouraging body language
  • Reassure the other person
  • Be patient
  • Repeat key words
  • Make sure that unclear points are clarified
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Repeat the other person’s view to clarify it
  • Ensure that everyone who wants to has a chance to speak

A good listener does not:-

  • Appear bored, impatient or hostile
  • Talk down to the other person
  • Disbelieve, make light of or ridicule the other person
  • Make distracting gestures
  • Talk too much
  • Interrupt
  • Fill a silence too quickly
  • Jump to the wrong conclusions before the speaker has finished
  • Seem to favour one or two members of the group
  • Show that you are judging the other person
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