Communicating Effectively:How to avoid a ‘Kaboom’ event

by Betty Lochner on March 10, 2011

The following is an excerpt from Emergency Management Magazine from their March issue.

It is an interview by Eric Holdeman, a fellow former emergency manager who is a regular contributor to the magazine. The full article can be found at:

Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

Everyday emergency managers are communicating with people inside and outside of their organizations. Communicators can improve by deliberately paying attention to how they communicate. Betty Lochner is a former emergency manager turned author. Her book, Dancing with Strangers, looks at ways to communicate more effectively. She shared some tips for enhancing our communication skills as emergency managers.

People seem to avoid confrontation until it builds and builds and then there is what you describe as a “kaboom” event. Why is that?

Most people simply aren’t comfortable with conflict. We avoid or ignore the signs hoping it will go away, until there is a big problem that I refer to in my book as a “kaboom” event. When we don’t deal with issues that need to be dealt with in a timely manner, they pile up. The problem gets bigger and bigger until it blows up and you have a messy conflict on your hands.

The way to avoid kaboom in your relationships is to deal with issues when they first appear. When something isn’t quite right, doesn’t go well, or you see a behavior you don’t want, address the problem sooner rather than later. Say what you need to say in a respectful manner. Say what you are thinking, feeling and wanting to have happen. When you deal with issues early on, you avoid kaboom.

Leaders can set the tone for an organization when it comes to communication. What are your observations on the role of the leader in communication?
You are absolutely right. A good leader will set the tone. He or she must model good communication skills by listening, being clear in what they are communicating and being specific about expectations. When you are communicating as a leader, don’t make assumptions.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make your communication clear. Before you speak, think about how you are communicating what you are saying. Don’t assume the other person or group knows what your undisclosed expectations are! Tell them what you are trying to say and what you expect to have happen.
  • Deal with issues sooner rather than later.
  • Be open and approachable. Make it safe for people to come talk to you so problems get discussed and resolved quickly. Don’t create an environment where people are afraid of what your response might be.
  • Be calm and thoughtful. Don’t jump to conclusions. And always, listen first


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

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