Friday, 14 January 2011

What is Risk Communication?

This week our guest blogger is Dr. Andrew Powell, co-author (with Dr. Andrew Roberts) of our latest title, "The Lowdown: Dodging The Bullet - Effective Risk Communication Skills".

We all have been in situations where we have been talking to someone where we just cannot seem to get our message across.

“The lights were on but no one was home! He just didn’t get what I was talking about. He seemed totally freaked out!”

Hardly surprising really that he didn’t “get it”! If he was freaked out about the issue he was obviously upset!

What you have to realize is that the rules of communication change when people are upset!

Communication in these situations of high concern, and in situations of low trust, high sensitivity, or controversy needs to be considerably different to the regular types of conversations you may have with colleagues, friends and family.

There is now a large body of research has showing that people under stress typically have difficulty hearing, understanding and remembering information and, if they are listening at all, tend to focus on any negative words or phrases that you may include in your conversation. 

Whilst many people, e.g. politicians, managers, researchers/academic lecturers, have excellent communication skills appropriate to their own specialist areas, communicating effectively in high concern or high stress situations presents very different challenges, and a different set of communication skills is essential in such situations. Players must become adept at what is now known as Risk Communication.

Risk communication is a science-based approach for communicating effectively in high concern, low trust, sensitive, or controversial situations. The techniques were developed over 25 years of psychological and communications research and are based on principles developed by researchers that include Dr. Peter Sandman, formerly of Rutgers University, and Dr Vincent Covello of the Center for Risk Communication in New York. Risk communication has become recognized as a necessary component in effective risk management and decision-making.

Risk communication is the two-way exchange of information in situations where there is a high level of perceived risk. It does not matter whether that risk is real or imaginary, the reality that must be dealt is the risk in the mind of the person you are communicating with. The goals of risk communication are to enhance knowledge and understanding, build trust and credibility, encourage dialogue, and influence attitudes, decisions and behaviors. Risk communication is not ”spin-doctoring”. It is about the effective delivery of fact. - Dr. Andrew Powell

"The Lowdown: Dodging the Bullet - Effective Risk Communications" is now available in eBook form and is available in audio form later this month at Audible.

Next week, Dr. Andrew Roberts talks about the science of risk communication.

Photo by BLW Photography 

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