Across multiple domains, there’s a single communication technique that is consistently used.

It is known as “acknowledgment.”

For the past few years, I’ve been volunteering as a first responder and training in the fields of search and rescue, structural-collapse rescue, rope rescue, pre-hospital emergency medicine, and mass-casualty incident rescue.

Nearly all communication done in these domains is done by radio.

In radio training, one of the things we teach, practice, and do in the field is to acknowledge all radio transmissions by repeating what you think you heard from the message sender.

“Base, this is Unit 99. Request helicopter extraction of critical patient from GPS coordinates 47.8021° north by 123.60444° west.”

“Unit 99, this is Base. Copy. You’re requesting helicopter extraction at 47.8021°  north by 123.60444° west for critical patient. We’ll get back to you to see if that’s possible and provide an ETA if available.”

When a miscommunication can cost someone their life, the best practice is to confirm all messages. You don’t want a helicopter going to the wrong location!

Wall Street trading systems use a similar system of communication acknowledgment.

If JPMorgan Chase wires Amazon Treasury $500 million, the computer systems involved will sound something like this.

“Hey, Amazon. This is JPMorgan Chase. We are sending you $500 million via wire right now. Please confirm when you receive it.”

“Hey, JPMorgan Chase, this is Amazon Treasury. We confirm we received $500 million from you. We consider this transaction fully executed.”

“This is JPMorgan Chase. Acknowledged. You received our funds of $500 million and consider this transaction fully executed. We confirm that we consider this transaction fully executed as well.”

“This is Amazon Treasury. JPMorgan Chase, we acknowledge that you consider this transaction fully executed.”

What you wouldn’t want to happen is for JPMorgan Chase to send $500 million and Amazon Treasury to never receive it. That would be horrible.

So, these types of financial transactions are not recorded as complete until both parties agree that the transfer of funds was both sent and received by the appropriate parties.

A few years ago, I started taking training programs intended for marriage therapists. It was fascinating.

One of the things I learned was that a lot of marital disputes are based on miscommunications and misunderstandings.

Here’s a simple example:

Spouse 1: “You look really nice today.”

Spouse 2: “So you think I normally look terrible?! You’re so rude.”

Spouse 1: “You’re being ridiculous. Why are you always so ridiculous?”

Spouse 2: “Well, at least I’m not an insensitive jerk.”

One of the best practices in a heated marital dispute is to slow down, acknowledge, and verify with your spouse what you think you heard.

Spouse 1: “You look really nice today.”

Spouse 2: “I’m not sure if you’re saying that as a compliment or if you’re trying to criticize my appearance the last few weeks. Could you clarify?”

Spouse 1: “Oh, I definitely meant it as a compliment.”

Spouse 2: “In that case, thank you so much!”

Anytime you communicate in a situation with high stakes, it is very important to acknowledge what you think you heard from the other party. This provides the other party with the opportunity to correct any miscommunications or misunderstandings.

Whether lives, hundreds of millions of dollars, or your romantic relationship is on the line, something as simple as including an acknowledgment in your communications can help you avoid a lot of problems.

What do you think about this topic? Comment below to let me know.

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