Do You Communicate?

Of all the skills that are fundamental for fighting – move, communicate, shoot as necessary, use cover and think, the communication is one of the most difficult. We communicate with people every day, but under stress the ability to communicate is something that won’t happen if it’s not part of our standard response.

You communicate with the threat, issuing verbal commands, telling them what you want them to do. According to the documentation, the presence of a firearm and strong verbal commands will diffuse the situation. When the threat(s) don’t comply then we gain compliance with accurate fire. Now, there are some situations where you wouldn’t issue verbal commands in order to maintain the element of surprise, but if you communicatedon’t make communication part of your practice you definitely won’t remember to do it.

In most situations communicating with your family, partners or team is critical. You’ll need to talk to your family or friends, telling them what to do or checking on their status to see if they are ok. You’ll also be communicating in order to co-ordinate your actions, especially with armed partners.

I use the acronym I.C.E. when talking about communication. For example I need my partner that I’m going to be moving to my left in order to clear a corner. I inform my partner that I want to move to my left. “Moving left!” Basically, I’m asking for permission to move. I hold until my partner confirms my intent by repeating the command. “Move left!” This is the communication part, which means an exchange of information back and forth between the two of us. Once my partner has confirmed he’s on the same page then I execute my action by announcing, “Moving!”

Almost everyone experiences auditory exclusion under stress so you’ll probably have to yell loud to get your partner’s attention. It may be a good idea to use names so everyone can keep track of who’s saying what. Keep your communications short and simple; normally there isn’t any time or the need to get into lengthy, detailed explanations.

Non-verbal communication is also an option, especially for those who work together or spend lots of time around each other. Communication may be as simple as eye contact and a nod. Just remember anything like this needs to be worked out in advance.

I’m also a big fan of communicating or talking to your self. When teaching students a new skill it works well to have them talk themselves through the steps of the sequence required. For an empty reload, for example, we’ll have students say out loud, “old mag out, new mag in, cycle the slide.” Verbalizing the steps out loud forces you to consciously focus on the steps necessary. It may attract attention when you do this on the range, but you’ll be the one learning more than others.

Communication is an essential element when it comes to your fighting skills. Practice your communication skills, always be ready for the unexpected, and when the time comes shout it out loud. Lives may depend on your ability to communicate under stress. ~ Tiger

Tiger McKee
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama.  He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns” - writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk’s DVD, “Fighting With The 1911 -  McKee’s new book, AR-15 Skills and Drills, is available off Shootrite’s website: