Films of my life – the best films of 2022

Another bumper year of movies, though this year I saw most of them in the cinema. Again, there were more than 20 films that made it into my list of favourites

My favourite film of the year was also one of the last I saw. Decision to leave is an Hichcockian neo-noir from Park Chan-wook. It was beautifully shot and with a plot that playfully referenced Vertigo and Badic Instinct. Outstsnding. You can read my full review here

Here are some more of my favourites

Top Gun: Maverick it was a good year for blockbusters. This sequel is way better than the original. The characters are more 3 dimensional, and the action is even more thrilling.

The Batman who would have thought that there is life in the Batman franchise. By going back to the detective noir of the original comics, we get a dark, brooding, coherent dark knight in a thrilling tale. Possibly the best score of the year too

Moonage Daydream this was the outstanding documentary of the year. The enigma of Bowie is illustrated through archive footage and voice over interviews.

Aftersun gets my vote for best debut and also best British film of the year. There is such craft on display that it is difficult to believe that it represented Charlotte Well’s debut. A stunning tale of me memory and loss. You can read my review here

The Banshees of Inisherin is a wonderful layered tale with great performances from the leads

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once proved to be the multiverse story of the year, better than Doctor Strange and last year’s Spider Man

Films of my life – the best movies of 2021

After the pandemic affected previous year, 2021 was the year that cinema tried to bounce back. In the UK, cinemas started reopening in the summer, so the first half of the year was once again dominated by streaming services.

In terms of movies, there was plenty to admire, with 23 movies making it into my Letterboxd long list of films of the year .

Here is the final short list of my favourite films of 2021

  1. Dune – This intergalactic desert epic is my favourite film of 2021. If you are trying to get people back into cinemas, this is the spectacular movie to do it. A perfect blend of space opera, visuals and star power (the casting is perfect – especially Chalomet). However, it is the soundscape – the music and effects – that impresses most. Another sci-fi success for Denis Villeneuve who previously gave us the brilliant Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. You can read my review here
  2. No Time To Die – Finally we get to see Craig’s final outing as 007. I’m a big fan of Bond in general and Daniel Craig’s interpretation in particular. For me, he is the best Bond. I’ve always loved the physicality and laconic humour of Connery, but some of his movies haven’t aged well. The gradual updating of Bond to make him acceptable (if not relevant) for the 21st century has been a highlight of the Craig era. No Time To Die is a perfect end to his arc, with story choices that will split audiences. This was also the first big release of this year to get people back into cinemas in the UK and was a massive hit, showing that with the right movie, audiences still love cinema. This was reinforced with the huge success of Spiderman – No Way Home. You can read my spoiler laden review of No Time To Die here
  3. The big Oscar winner this year was Nomadland. “A modern day docu-drama version of How the West was Won coupled with a Steinbeck novel” was how I described it in my review. I didn’t get to see this beautiful movie in the cinema, so I didn’t get to see the sumptuous visuals on the biggest screen. However, the story, based on true accounts of life the in US following the financial crash of 2008, is engaging in any medium.
  4. The Green Knight is excellent cine-literature. The visuals are trippy and the story engrossing. Dev Patel would make an excllent JamesBond. Read my review here
  5. Summer of Soul (or how the revolution could not be documented) was the outstanding documentary of the year. The forgotten film of the forgotten ”Black Woodstock” is outstanding. In fact, the music is better than Woodstock, with far more remembered songs (and artists). The politics behind this event are covered but never in an intrusive way. There is also the joy of some of the surviving performers seeing themselves as they were 50 years ago, but in pristine 4K. Read my review here
  6. Identifying Features is a story for our times, examining the worldwide migration crisis by focusing on one story at the US / Mexico story. This is a very human story, not making any political points but asking us to empathise with the human cost behind these endeavours. Read my Letterboxd review here
  7. West Side Story – another remake, and like No Time To Die it takes the opportunity to fix some of the problems with the original. It is more hard hitting, but crucially, this is a respectful remake. It captures the energy, but with added grit and the music is timeless. Here is my review.
  8. Vying with No Time To Die for best British movie of the year is Last Night in Soho. This movie has the best soundtrack based on pre-exiting songs. The visual representation of 1965 Soho is very evocative (again, the songs help) and the story is clever and has a few surprises. May be a bit violent for some. Read my review here.

So, overall another excellent year for cinema. These are my highlights. What were yours?

Films of my life – the best movies of 2020

Twenty twenty will be remembered for far more important reasons than what movies were released. However, the Covid-19 pandemic did have a major impact on cinema, and may even have sounded its death knell. After a really successful spring, with receipts up on the previous year, the introduction of global lockdown’s resulted in a major change in the way we watch our movies. Firstly, movies were delayed, especially the highly anticipated tentpole movies, such as the latest James Bond “No Time To Die”, then they were increasingly released via subscription streaming services or pay-per-view. Disney led the way with Mulan, but others soon followed. This worked well for the smaller independent movies, but the impact for blockbuster movies was more muted. For a long time, the future of cinema landed on the shoulders of Tenet. The relative lack of success for Warner Bros. Tenet, especially in the US, almost certainly resulted in studio deciding that from 2021 it will release new movies simultaneously in cinemas and via streaming. Cinema has survived tough times before, but it could yet be the biggest victim of the global pandemic.


Two of my favourite movies of the year were released before the pandemic lockdown, and they went head-to-head at the Oscar and BAFTA awards ceremonies. Generally, Parasite came out on top, and indeed, it is my favourite movie of the year. You can read my review here. I was so inspired by Parasite that I sought out the full back catalogue of director Bong Joon-Ho, who is now one of my very favourite current directors.


The other movie, and a close second choice, was Sam Mendes’ First World War epic 1917, which was both a technical and storytelling marvel. Here is my second, reconsidered review


My next choice, was the only significant new movie during the summer relaxation of lockdown. Tenet is probably the perfect blockbuster – one that you have to watch several times to keep up with the complicated plot. This was a drawback for some reviewers, but is something that I look for in a movie – getting even more out of repeat viewing – and it is a feature of my all time favourite movies.


Of the movies that premiered via streaming, Portrait of a Lady on Fire was the standout. Beautifully performed and directed, it was the best example of movies directed by women, of which there seemed to be far more in 2020 than previously, both blockbuster movies, but especially in independent movies.


Similarly, Queen & Slim was the standout movie for me directed by a black Director, in the year of Black Lives Matters. It was written and directed by woman of colour Melina Matsoukas and is a powerful document of what life can be like for black people in the US in 2020. It also has a great soundtrack. Da 5 Bloods was also excellent, with Spike Lee at his very best again.

Other movies that made it onto my best of list were varied in tone and genre;

Best animated feature was a tie between Soul and WolfWalkers. Very different movies, but both are excellent.

Outstanding British Movie (Film 4) was Calm with Horses, with Cosmo Jarvis showing why many people see him as the next Tom Hardy.

Overall, there were many good films in 2020, most to be found via streaming. I do worry for the future of cinema, but I believe it is the multiplex rather than the small independent cinemas, that have most to fear. If the public fall out of love with going to the cinema and sitting next to strangers in a post-pandemic world. The optimist in me hopes that absence makes the heart grow fonder and people will flock back to cinema. I know I will.

Films of My Life – the best films of 2019

The last 12 months was another bumper year for movies. Once again, my list of 5* movies was into double figures, but unlike last year, my choice of THE best film was easy. In a year with several outstanding biopics, Rocketman stood out and, unlike 2018s Bohemian Rhapsody, this was a full blown musical, and was all the better for it;


D27462BA-7A37-4663-97CB-ADB33FABA931Think Bohemian Rhapsody done in the style of Mama Mia, with Taupin-John songs forming part of the narrative. Director Dexter Fletcher demonstrates that, in the musical genre at least, he is a force to be reckoned with. I saw it 3 times in the cinema. Read my full review here


46F7DB7A-4CD5-4D82-A7F3-BC8C012FA7E8This (non) super hero origin story really blew me away, and has even more depth when viewed a second time. The music is also superb, but it is Phoenix’ take on the iconic DC villain that is really special. Read my review here

I also enjoyed Avengers: Endgame and Spider-man; Into the Spider-verse amongst the super-hero movies released this year, but neither came close to Joker.

Stan & Ollie

Another biopic that worked for me was this affecting, heartfelt tribute to Laurel & Hardy.

The Farewell

Here was a very special movie that many may have missed. Featuring a star making performance from Awkwafina, this touching tale of cultural differences and family ties has universal appeal and is both funny and very poignant. Read my review


This British movie was made on a shoestring, but was one of the most original and compelling films of the year

The Irishman / Marriage Story / I lost My body

Netflix continues to grow in influence with new movie releases, Especially as we enter awards season. These 3 movies were the best Netflix Premieres of 2019. The first 2 feature superb acting performances which will no doubt be recognised at awards time; the latter is a french animation (influenced by the style of Studio Ghibli) with an original tale.

Finally, a few other 5* movies that I really rate;

  • The Favourite – Olivia Coleman in Oscar winning form
  • Apollo 11 – best documentary of the year
  • Knives-Out  – great whodunnit fun
  • Little Women – another likely Oscar contender, with top female talent both in front and behind the camera
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Top Tarantino movie, re-writing history again

Not a bad year of movies. Here’s to 2020 being as good!

What were your favourite movies?

Films of my life – the best films of 2018

Films of my life – The best films of 2018 

The last 12 months produced some truly outstanding and original movies as well as a chance to catch up with one of my all time favourites, back in cinemas to celebrate 50 years since it’s release (2001: A Space Odyssey).

It was certainly a bumper year for top movies, with my last of 5* (5/5) titles going well into double figures. In fact, it has been hard to produce a short list.

Here are my favourite movies from the last 12 months;

The Shape of Water

Shape of Water

My film of the year, but it was a difficult to choose between this movie and Three Billboards.

Think “Splash” meets “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”.  A glorious mashup of styles and a real love letter to Hollywood, with scares, thrills, repressed sexuality and even a musical number.

Three Billboards outside Ebbings, Missouri

Frances McDormand rightly won an Oscar for her performance as a woman you don’t want to mess with, but Woody Harrelson is also memorable in this wry, funny movie about the impact of a rape and murder on a small community. I know the some people were offended by making a comedy about this topic, but the humour actually reinforces the shocking storyline, rather than detracting from it

Cold War

Amazingly, this counts as a British film, though it is actually a Polish-French-UK joint production and is in Polish! I love the sheer scope of the story using the relationship between a young singer and a musician in communist Poland and Paris. The stark black and white photography, the jazz score and the chemistry between the leading actors, makes this a heady brew.MV5BNTJmNzExOGItZTQyMi00YzBlLTk0ZTQtNzAxYmUwZDQwZjU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODE1MjMyNzI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_


Another outstanding film not in the english language and another Netflix premiere (like 22 July).  This autobiographical tribute to the women who nurtured him in childhood (his mother and his nanny) in the Mexico of the early 70s is Alfonso Cuarón’s best movie. The vibrant cinematography (again in black and white) is fantastic and the episodic nature of the storytelling gives the film a slight dream-like quality.

Leave No Trace

A truly amazing film about a father and daughter living off the grid (as opposed to sleeping rough) in the woods in Oregon and how they react to being “caught” or “rescued” by the authorities. All of the characters are real and even the authority figures are treated sympathetically. There are no villains

Loving Vincent

This film was released in 2017, but I couldn’t get to see it until early 2018. The story of an investigation into the final days of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, animated using paint and in the styles of the painter is a joy to behold. The best and most original animation of the year.

Here are some movies that deserve  a special mention, but didn’t get into the short list;

  • The Incredibles 2 (best sequel)
  • Wajid (a moving Palestinian movie that is not about the war. Or is it…)
  • 22 July (A Netflix presentation covering the aftermath of the Norwegian mass killing)
  • Suspiria ( A SUPERIOR re-imagining of the over rated Argento original)
  • Beast (A great British movie)
  • You were never really here (Truly unsettling movie form the talented Lynn Ramsey)
  • Sorry to bother you  (a very offbeat, original movie from write/director Boots Riley which has a lot to say about capitalism and the quest for happiness)

So, overall, I think 2018 was an excellent year for movies, especially if you were looking for alternatives to the ubiquitous super-hero genre. These are my favourites, but what to you think?




Films of my Life – the best films of 2017


The best films of 2017.

Was 2017 a great year for movies? Well it wasn’t too shabby. I had sixteen 5* (or 5/5) movies this year, an average of more than one outstanding movie per month. I also enjoyed the variety and breadth of the movies on choice.

Here is my list of 5* movies, in the order I saw them;

  • La La Land
  • Moonlight
  • I am not your Negro
  • Your Name (from 2016)
  • Baby Driver
  • Dunkirk
  • Toni Erdmann
  • God’s Own Country
  • Detroit
  • It
  • Goodbye Christopher Robin
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • The Party
  • Paddington 2
  • The Red Turtle
  •  Mudbound (limited release and available on Netflix)

I loved everyone of these movies, and I recommend everyone to see them. But what were my favourites for 2017? In many respects it was “the year of the Gosling” with Ryan Gosling appearing twice on my list. Both of these movies are in my favourites;

Best Musical – La La Land

I love the sheer exuberance of this fantastic tribute to the classic Hollywood musical. Of course, a musical is only as good as the songs in it and La La Land has an abundance of riches in this respect. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have excellent chemistry, and this compensates for any deficiencies in their singing and dancing!

Best documentary – I am not your Negro

I must confess that I was not familiar with the work and writing of James Baldwin before I saw this movie. I was also fortunate to see it in “Home” (the new centre for contemporary arts in Manchester)  with a discussion afterwards. It was clear from this discussion that the way black people were treated in the 1960s, especially in the USA,  still has resonance today. This is an incredibly powerful film that should be compulsory viewing in every school.

Best Foreign Language Film – Toni Erdmann 

This German film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. In my opinion it should have won, as although I enjoyed “The Salesman”, it was not a patch on Toni Erdmann . The film is long for a satire/comedy but the performance of Peter Simonischek as a father who creates an alter ego; Life Coach Toni Erdmann, to allow him to reconnect with his daughter, is both very funny and very moving.

Best British Film – God’s Own Country

I saw this at the Thirsk Film Festival in August and you can read my thoughts here . Quite simply, it is a perfect movie with outstanding performances.

Best Sequel – Blade Runner 2049

Now this is how to make a sequel to a much loved and respected original; just wait 35 years and find a director who is prepared to pay homage to the original vision but also take it further. In fact all of the things that Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) got wrong (but “The Last Jedi” got right). Denis Villeneuve (Director of my favourite film of 2016) is the perfect choice to create a sequel that is every bit as imaginative as the original. It is also the second of my top choices to star Ryan Gosling

Best Comedy – Paddington 2

If you ever need cheering up, then this is the movie for you. I thought the first Paddington movie was excellent, but this  is even better with outstanding slapstick and visual gags, along with great combinations from just about every British Thespian. Simply, hilarious.

Best Animated Film – The Red Turtle

This European-Japanese collaboration has virtually no dialogue, and is a fable for adults and children. The animation is simple but beautiful, as is the central premise.

So there you have it. In my opinion, 2017 was a great year for movies. So what will 2018 have for us?







Films of My Life – The Thirsk Film Festival August 2017

The Thirsk Film Festival ran over the August Bank Holiday weekend (25-28 August) 2017. The theme for the festival was “Yorkshire”, with each movie being either made or set or both, in Yorkshire. In this edition of my “Films of my life” blog, I will review each of the 13 movies scheduled to be shown at the festival.

Friday evening

It_Shouldn't_Happen_to_a_Vet_UK_posterThe festival opened, appropriately enough, with “It Shouldn’t Happen To a Vet” (1976) based on the life and books of local vet, James Herriot. So, what better way to kick off the festival, than with a film set in Thirsk?

I vaguely remember going to see this movie in the spring / summer of 1976 and at the time Herriot was one of the biggest selling authors in the UK (and very popular in the US). I spent a lot of that summer staying with my aunt, uncle and cousins at their caravan near Thirsk. It was a very hot summer (the year of the drought) and as I read some of Heriot’s books and played in the sun, I fell in love with the North Yorkshire countryside he described. It is so different to Tyneside. It was no surprise to me that I eventually settled here

We could only see a digital copy of the VHS source (as the rights-holder has died) because the Ritz is a non-profit organisation. Even though the presentation was not up to 4K standards of 2017, the charm of the movie shone through.

Rating:      Movie (3/5) – Charming. Old fashioned but funny

Yorkshireness (5/5) – Stunning Dales locations and “real” North Yorkshire  farmer characterisation


The first full day of the festival kicked off with a childhood favourite of my wife, Gill (and many others) The Railway Children (1970). I remembered it mostly as the one 70s movie where Jenny Agutter keeps her clothes on!

Movie: 4/5 – A children’s classic, but very much a child’s perspective

Yorkshireness: 7/10 – Beautiful West Yorkshire locations and supporting characters

My summer of loveNext was My Summer of Love (2004)

I saw this movie on its release and I remember it well. Emily Blunt is excellent in one of her first movies in this coming-of-age film, but newcomer Helen Cross really stands out, There relationship feel genuine and the Calderdale locations remind me of the 7 years we lived there.

Movie: 4/5 -An affecting coming of age movie

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Wonderful Yorkshire locations but the characters could come from anywhere.

This was followed by the classic Kes (1969), which was shown in a beautiful, restored presentation.

Movie: 5/5 –  Melancholic story. The school scenes are a vivid reminder of the time

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Authentic people in a real, but now gone (mining), community.

Next was perennial favourite (recently produced as a stage play) Calendar Girls (2004). . The first half about making the calendar is excellent, but the second half about promoting it in Hollywood may be true but feels like it is there to attract an American audience.

Movie: 3/5 – Funny and moving, especially in the first half

Yorkshireness: 7/10 – Beautiful Skipton locations but we only really see the WI and their husbands

“God’s Own Country” is the perfect companion to “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet”, covering the same people but in a very different way.

God's_Own_Country_(2017_film)Lastly, there was a première – God’s Own Country (2017) – yet to go on general release. I really enjoyed this moving film about the loneliness of being a Hill farmer. The performances are superb and the locations are both bleak and beautiful, but this film feels incredibly authentic. Definitely a film of the year for me, and one I would like to see again when it goes on general release.”God’s Own Country” is the perfect companion to “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet”, covering the same people but in a very different way. They bookend the same situations, but the is when’re the similarity ends

Movie: 5/5 – Affecting, realistic depiction of hill farming life in Yorkshire. Great performances.

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Grim and beautiful, the (North?) Yorkshire locations are superb and the characters are genuine Yorkshire – good and bad attitudes


Billy Liar (1963) kicked off the third day of the festival. At the risk of heresy, I think this movie is overrated. Imaginative and funny in parts certainly, but the character arc of Billy is poor, so there is little justification for his actions. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian shares my disappointment for the same reasons.

Movie: 2/5 – Imaginative but unsatisfying

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – This is a Northern kitchen-sink drama set around Leeds. However, the characters come across as proper Yorkshire

Next we had Brassed Off (1996) another film I haven’t seen in a long time, but one that represents its time and place perfectly – 1990s Yorkshire and the death throes of the mining industry.

Movie: 4/5 – realistic characters, but the anti-Thatcher politics may upset some

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – from the small mindedness to the sense of community, this is another authentic portrayal of a Northern mining town

A Private Function (1984) also captures a sense of time and place – this time it is post-war austerity Yorkshire. The portrayal of class prejudice and social ambition may be of its time (1947), but there are also some genuine people to be found amongst the pigs.

Movie: 4/5 – Very funny in parts, with Liz Smith in a career making role

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Apart from the accents, I’m sure that this story could have been set anywhere in post-war Britain

Inbred only represents real Yorkshire if the the pub (The Slaughtered Lamb) in “An American Werewolf In London” was an accurate description of Yorkshire folk! It is? Ok…


Inbred (2011) was certainly something different. Professionally made but on a low budget, it was a funny, gross, gory tale of North Yorkshire folk in the Vale of York. The scenery was beautiful, even if the gore was not. The visual effects were top notch.

Movie: 3/5 – Good if you like body horror. Think “The (Cleveland) Hills Have Eyes” meets Deliverance near Sutton Bank.

Yorkshireness: 1/5 – Inbred only represents real Yorkshire if the the pub (The Slaughtered Lamb) in “An American Werewolf In London” was an accurate description of Yorkshire folk! It is? OK then perhaps 4/5 is a fairer score.


Monday started with Leon The Pig Farmer (1992), a film I’d not seen before, but had heard great things about.  It may have been acceptable when it was made, but 25 years on it seems to treat the Jewish community in a most stereotypical (almost racist) way. I felt quite uncomfortable.

Movie: 2/5

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Leon’s “biological” father is played by  Brian Glover, and he has a pig farm in Yorkshire. That’s about it.

2012-10-3WutheringUKDVDCoverThe Full Monty (1997) didn’t happen due to technical problems, but the Festival ended on a real high with Andrea Arnold’s raw take on the Emily Brontë classic, Wuthering Heights (2011) . For me, this is the best adaptation of the story I have seen, capturing the bleak beauty of the Yorkshire Moors (Swaledale standing in for Haworth) but the emotional essence of the tragic love affair shines through.

Movie: 5/5 – Emotionally raw, cinematically bleak

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Gives a real sense of how difficult life must have been living on the Yorkshire moors at that time.


So there you have it, three days of mostly excellent Yorkshire themed movies. The highlights for me were:

  • God’s Own Country
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Kes

A great festival.



Nine Principles of Human Communication


“Generally, when verbal and non-verbal messages contradict each other, people tend to believe the non-verbal more than the verbal messages”

New Horizons

courtesy of De Gruyter publishing


In my previous blog, I looked at 7 Myths of Human Communication, and how they relate to leadership & management. In this blog, I will focus on 9 Principles that underpin effective communication.

The source of information for both of these blogs is an excellent book that I have recently read called “New Horizons in Patient Safety: Understanding Communication by, Hannawa, Wu & Juhasz (published by De Gruyter).

These principles remind us just how difficult it is to achieve a shared understanding with another person. One has to wonder if we ever really understand what is intended by another person.

Principle 1: Communication varies between thought, symbol and referent

According to Annegret Hannawa, human communication is “fundamentally an interactive meaning-making process”. Put simply, we use the joint creation and interpretation of symbols (words, gesture, images etc) to try to achieve shared understanding. So, our thoughts are encoded into symbols and behaviours (which have no intrinsic meaning of their own). This leads to the first challenge of “making meaning”, as there needs to be enough “common ground” for both parties to achieve a shared understanding.

Principle 2: Communication is a non-summative process

“Human communication is an interpersonal process that involves much more than the mere sum of its components” (Hannawa).

The assignment of symbols happens within an individual, but the meaning-making process (i.e. communication) happens between people. Because of this, communication cannot “breakdown” as it was not guaranteed in the first place. However, it can malfunction and the wrong meaning can be attributed to message being transmitted.

Principle 3: Communication is functional

Communication works best when it is purely factual but the nature of human relationships is such that often people are not interested in communicating purely factual information. The introduction of humour, sarcasm, persuasion etc. makes it more challenging for a true “shared meaning” to be achieved.

Principle 4: Communication is more than words

It is often said that “the meaning of the communication is the response it produces”.

Communication is more than just an exchange of words. We cannot “not” communicate. Silence can communicate just as much as words. In everyday interactions, we are interpreting both verbal and non-verbal symbols or signals. Generally, when verbal and non-verbal messages contradict each other, people tend to believe the non-verbal more than the verbal messages (Sellers & Beall, 2000)

Principle 5: Communication entails both factual and relational information

“In the same way that verbal messages are always accompanied by non-verbal messages, factual messages are always accompanied by relational messages” (Hannawa). The relationship between those communicating (social, status etc) plays a crucial part in how the communication is interpreted. It is not just what is said, and how  it is said, but the relationship between the individuals that will impact upon the “meaning” for the recipient

Principle 6: Communication is contextual

The meaning of a communicated message largely depends on the context in which it is encoded and received. This builds on Principles 4 & 5. Hannawa describes 5 different contexts that can come into play:

  • Functional (the goals of the interaction)
  • Relational (see Principle 5)
  • Environmental (the physical setting)
  • Chronological (the timing and sequencing as well as the timeliness)
  • Cultural (including beliefs)

These factors are particularly significant in interactions between line management and their reports

Principle 7: Preconceptions and perceptions vary among communicators

“Our individual life experiences contribute to idiosyncratic preconceptions and perceptions of communicated messages and behaviours” (Hannawa). Communication is an interactive negotiation to bridge these idiosyncrasies and establish “common ground”. This is the foundation for co-constructing a shared understanding.

Principle 8: Redundancy in content and directness in channel enhance accuracy

The appropriate repetition of content (see relevancy, primacy and recency) can enhance communication. Choice of communication channel can also have an impact, with direct face-to-face communication being superior to more indirect channels. It seems that having access from as many senses as possible can have an impact on achieving a shared understanding. this is un-surprising, given that we tend to trust non-verbal over verbal messages.

Principle 9: Communication is equifinal and multi-final

Reading principles 1-8 you might conclude that communication is random, but it is not. In fact, these principles tell us that there may be many different ways to achieve a shared understanding. With experience we can learn to choose the best route to achieve the desired result. For instance, sometime a person in authority needs to use that authority (tell assertive) to avert disaster (e.g. the chief surgeon in the operating theatre). However, in a different context a more persuasive (ask assertive) approach may be better (e.g. as a supervisor helping a junior with their career plan). No single tactic works all of the time.

There are many possible paths to the same outcome (equifinal) and many possible outcomes to the same path (multi-final).

Excellent communication requires us to be as aware of, and as open minded as possible to these 9 principles.

Mark De Cosemo is a Consultant, Trainer & Coach teaching influential communication across a variety of business sectors.

Seven myths about human communication

Seven myths about human communication

If there is one thing that these 7 myths tell us, it is that as communication is a shared process, there is an onus on both parties to ensure they have the correct “shared understanding

New Horizons

courtesy of De Gruyter publishing

I recently read an excellent book called “New Horizons in Patient Safety: Understanding Communication (Hannawa, Wu & Juhasz, De Gruyter) which examines the role that communication plays in patient safety issues through 39 case studies. This excellent book  is essential reading for anyone involved in teaching or delivering health care. As a teacher of Leadership & Management and the role that communication plays in these skills, I cannot recommend this book enough.

One of the chapters (by Annegret F Hannawa, Ph.D.) explores common myths about communication. In this blog, I will discuss the 7 myths presented in the book, and add in a Leadership & Management perspective.

Myth 1: Communication is a simple and functional task

Communication is often, incorrectly,  conceptualised as a linear task of transferring a message. In fact, it is, as Hannawa describes it “interactive, error prone activity that often fails to accomplish its purpose of attaining a shared understanding”. This has implications not only for patient safety, but also in effective leadership & management, as leaders and managers often assume that “message sent is message received (and understood)”. The only way to confirm accurate communication is for the other person to be able to demonstrate a shared understanding by telling you their understanding. This is equally true in leadership and management situations, as well as HCP-patient communication.

Myth 2: Communication equals words

We’ve all played “Chinese whispers” where a message is passed along a “human chain” of several individuals. This sequential communication process often results in reduction in the quality and quantity of the information conveyed. This can be fun in a parlour game, but has serious consequences for patient safety and in leadership & management situations.

Then there is the impact of “non-verbal” communication. Language is often ambiguous and we “look” to body language and tone of voice to help us put a final interpretation on the meaning or significance of the message.

Myth 3: Communication equals information transfer

The case studies in the book illustrate how communication is more than just the conveying of factual information. The message recipient will have a set of personal filters through which the information must pass. These include personal experience, values, beliefs, cultural and social filters, as well as relationship filters. The relationship between the initiator and the receiver has a massage effect on the understanding (HCP – patient, manager-report)

Myth 4: Communication can be accessed, deposited and delegated

Written communication is subject to the same rules of (mis)understanding as verbal communication. Just because it is written down (deposited) does not guarantee communication. In fact, it may increase the risk of misunderstanding as shared understanding is not guaranteed. Whatever medium is used, it always pays to check that there is shared understanding, not assume that it is obvious.

Myth 5: Communication is not about individual understanding 

As Hannawa puts it “Communication is an interpersonal meaning-making process” which occurs between not within people.  Yet the assumption is often that everybody has the same understanding of terminology or jargon. This “common ground fallacy” can result not only in patient safety issues, but also management issues. Take the example of setting a timescale for a goal or objective. If I want to a achieve a goal “by December”  what date comes to mind? By when does the goal have to be achieved? Write it down. You can choose any date from 30 November to 31 December and be right! That can represent a difference of up to 32 days between two individuals. To ensure shared understanding we need both parties to verbalise and document a specific date.

Myth 6: More communication is better

People tend to assume that more communication is better communication. As Hannawa reminds us though “the truth, however, is that the functional form of the association between communication skills and competence is an inverted U, with both too little and too much of any given behaviour being perceived as inappropriate and ineffective in most healthcare interactions”. There is still a place for structure and repetition, especially in presentations  (see relevancy, primacy and recency) but remember; the only difference between a cure and a poison is the dosage!

Myth 7: Communication “breaks down”

Many people describe “failed communication” as a “breakdown” in communication. This perspective “mistakenly implies that communication failure equates to a mere lack  of communication rather than incomplete communication” (Hannawa). This has massive implications for organisations as it can perpetuate a “blame culture”, something that is very relevant to patient safety. As Hannawa states in the book “across the 39 case studies. poor outcomes were the result of no established shared understanding. What was never established cannot “break down”.

If there is one thing that these 7 myths tell us, it is that as communication is a shared process, there is an onus on both parties to ensure they have the correct “shared understanding“. For those in positions of responsibility (e.g managers to reports or HCPs to patients) there is increased onus on the initiator of the communication to confirm a shard understanding, not assume it

In the next part of this blog we will explore the Nine Core  Principles of Human Communication

Films of my life – War Movies

The recent release of the excellent Dunkirk prompted me to think about which war films would I choose for my Top Ten? Would Dunkirk make that list?

It’s interesting, but I usually think of myself as a “sci-fi” movie fan, but actually I’m first and foremost a “movie’ fan. I love sci-fi, but I also enjoy other genres. Reflecting on what films to put in this list, I realised that many of my favourite movies are war films. In fact, I’ve already identified 2 of the movies on this list as my favourite film for the year they came out (The Great Escape (1963) and A Bridge Too Far (1977)). Another was one of my picks from 1979 (Apocalypse Now) and there is even one of my favourite (non Christmas) Christmas Movies (Where Eagles Dare)!


So, what else would I choose as my favourite (so not necessarily the best) war movies?

I would have to include Dunkirk on my list as it is not only one of the best movies of 2017, but a superlative example of how to make epic events relatable


In no particular order, I would have all of the above, plus:

  1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – I remember Gill and I going to see the re-released “Director’s Cut” at Marble Arch in 1989. This was the first time I got to see this movie on a BIG screen and its the only way to really appreciate it. I did once see it on a National Express Coach, on a 12 inch screen which was located at the front of the coach. I was sat halfway back and I might as well have been listening to a radio play!
  2. Saving Private Ryan (1998) – the combination of brutal battle scenes (D-Day), state of the art sound realisation (That TANK arriving from behind you) and a human story makes this on of Spielberg’s classics
  3. Das Boot(1985) – This excellent movie showed for the first time not only how boring submarine life was, but also a more balanced German perspective. Released in cinemas from an original German TV series (1981), 30 years before HBO.
  4. Platoon (1986) – made a massive impression on me when I first saw it (in Reading with friend and house mate George Marshall ). It still has the power to shock
  5. Black Hawk Down (2001) – conveys the confusion and fear of war like no other movie. I’ve seen this movie so many times, and I still can’t tell who is who
  6. The Deer Hunter (1978) – another movie that shows the price communities pay when their men (and women) go to war. The relationships portrayed have that hallmark authenticity of Michael Cimino and 70s cinema
  7. Zulu (1964) – was in my list of 1964 favourites. The contrast of fighting styles and the sheer scale of the battles, coupled with the heroism on display, mask the uncomfortable colonial past of the British Empire. Actually, both sides come out with some honour
  8. Paths of Glory (1957) – I chose this movie over “Full Metal Jacket”, as I think it is Kubrick’s better war movie. I chose it over “All Quiet on the Western Front” as it is an even more powerful anti-war statement than that classic. An under rated movie
  9. La Grande Illusion (1937) – like “Paths of Glory”, this is a potent anti-war movie, all the more powerful because it was made 2 years before the fall of France and was banned by the Nazi’s
  10.  Dunkirk (2017) – I would have to include Dunkirk on my list as it is not only one of the best movies of 2017, but a superlative example of how to make epic events relatable. I love Director Christopher Nolan’s call back to another famous war film – The Battle of Britain with Michael Caine providing the voice of the unseen Squadron Leader (a role he played in TBoB)

So there you have it, my ten-ish (ok, 14) favourite War Films.

But which of these would you have on your list?