On deployment, we all look forward to calls home. A chance to hear a familiar voice, receive updates from friends and family, and hear about the events we are missing back home. However, all too often, calls back home can become awkward, tense, or frustrating as the deployed service member and the family member attempt to communicate over thousands of miles and 10+ time zones. What family members and military members can consider is using a framework to communicate their feelings and thoughts in a systematic fashion to help bridge the distances of miles and time. The medical community offers a framework for us to consider adopting.This framework can help conquer the deployment challenge of effective communication.
The Medical community, like the military, knows a great deal how to communicate effectively and efficiently during periods of high stress, little sleep, and over work. To help medical professional communicate when discussing patient care and the plan for patient care that incorporates all available information, the doctors, nurses, and various technicians will use an acronym called SOAP to help ensure the best patient outcome. SOAP stands for (1) Subjective, (2) Objective, (3) Assessment, and (4) Plan.
The SOAP acronym can be used in the same way when talking on the phone or via email during a deployment. The SOAP framework helps make sure you discuss, emotions, facts, what this means, and your plans in a single phone call or email.
Here are the details to learn how to use the SOAP framework for more effective communication during a deployment:
S – Subjective. Emotion Based Discussion of Your Feelings. Feelings are often the strongest thing when separated so discuss them first. This allows both people to relate, understand, and inform the other person what they are feeling. Feelings need to be more than told, they need to be understood, so be sure to take time during this part of the call.
O – Objective. Facts Based Discussion of Your Days. A facts based discussion of your day with the challenges and hardships really helps the other person understand all that they are experiencing. The military member needs to always practice good and consistent Operational Security (OPSEC) that does not reveal their location, missions, unit, casualties in the unit, etc. However, describing the terrain, what one carries on a mission, what the village stores look like, etc. offer a multitude of experiences to help the other party understand.
A – Assessment. What Does This Mean? What Actions Could You Take? Next, based on your feelings and the facts of your day-to-day, do you plan to do anything different or change anything? Life on the homefront during deployment presents a multitude of challenges and opportunities from going back to work, completing a degree, or deciding on an elementary school. For the military member, reenlistment, a career opportunity, or a promotion are all things for both people to discuss.
P – Plan. Discuss & Decide What You Will Do & When. When you have discussed feelings, facts, and what you could do, then make a plan (together!) for what to do. Discussing, exchanging different options, and then making a plan will help bring and keep you together over the distance of deployment. A good plan is specific, has definitive actions for each person to take, an anticipated result, and a timeline.
Effective communication during deployment is very hard work and it takes both parties working very hard to make it work. The use of the SOAP framework for effective communication ensures that you discuss feelings (Subjective), facts about what is happening (Objective), what actions you could take (Assessment), and making a decision to help resolve issues or reach goals (Plan). When the SOAP framework is used consistently, it will prevent one or both parties from dwelling too much on negative feelings, bad news, and potentially irrelevant facts. Good communication over distance balances feelings, facts, meanings, and creates plans for effective outcomes. Remember to consider using SOAP on your next deployment.
What advice do you have for effective communication during a deployment? Share your advice below.
Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success. Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business. An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE. Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics. He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications. He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
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