The Art of Effective Communication

This week, we have been asked to evaluate the following multimedia programEffective-communication-in-the-workplace.

The content of the message is similar in all communication presented, however, the urgency is different in all of them. I believe this is the main difference.

In the email format, we could feel the sender trying to be very polite, and not getting straight to the point. When sending emails, we cannot make any assumptions on people’s feelings or context in which they send the message. Here, we can really see that the sender made an effort to show that she was not upset or aggressive, just in need of the info.

In the face-to-face example, the facial expression of the woman is tense, but the tone of voice is not matching with this feeling. The pace is slow, lacking the energy that would be needed to transmit such information, and her body language is not engaged either.

Lastly, in the voicemail example, we can feel the urgency in a more intense way. The urge and intensity of the tone are clear, speaking faster than in the face-to-face interaction. I believe this last example is the most effective way to transmit the urgency of the message, which is the true meaning.

Being a communication teacher, I tend to believe that a face-to-face interaction is usually the best way to communication (depending on the message) as the facial expression and body language is adding information to the message.

However, in this example, the tense / urge shown in the facial expression of the face-to-face interaction is not matching with the tone and pace of the voice, as well as with her body language. She is casually leaning on the furniture, like she just does not care.

 

Implications:

The clear lesson in this activity is to careful select the way to communicate your message to make it as effective as possible. We did understand that the same message, presented in three different ways did not have the same impact.

All three examples are information communication, however, only the email will leave a written trace of the exchange. Even though it was not the best way to communicate, I will still recommend the PM to use it, to keep a record as explained by Portny, et al., (2008). But what I would personally do it to first leave a voicemail (as the most effective way to transmit message) and then send an email to confirm what I just said orally. At the end of the voicemail, I could mention the fact that I will also send a message for follow up, and refer to the voicemail in my email. By doing so, I can transmit efficiently my message and keep a track of it.

Another lesson we must learn from this is how the non-verbal communication can completely modify a message is it is not matching with either the words, or the feeling that we are willing to express. This was the situation in this case, and the misunderstanding is obviously going to happen. If I were Marc, listening to my colleague during this face-to-face interaction, I would just feel that she is telling me the information but does not really care, and that it is not that urgent. Therefore, I will take my time with it, missing out on the urgency of the message.

King (1997) explains, from Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, that people’s choice of communication media will be influenced by two expectations: outcome and efficacy. This means that people will tend to select the medium of communication that they feel will be the best to transmit the message, but also the one they are more knowledgeable or comfortable with.

In the examples we studied, it might be that the woman is not comfortable discussing face-to-face with Marc. There might be plenty of reasons for that (own low self esteem, the hierarchical position of Marc, etc.). This might explain the mismatch between her words and facial expression with the rest of her body language.

Therefore, in a project team, the PM must take those elements into consideration, to ensure he/she understands her team members and their way to communicate. This will allow to limit the risk of miscommunication!

 

References:

King, R. C., & Xia, W. (1997). Media appropriateness: Effects of experience on communication media choice. Decision Sciences, 28(4), 877-910.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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6 responses to “The Art of Effective Communication

  1. Laury, I have never even thought of any sort of shyness when thinking about work. I have always had the impression that we were there to do a job and that communication between coworkers or even with managers would ever intimidate anyone. It is an interesting perspective to think that anyone would ever be “afraid” to talk to anyone especially when it comes to work.

    • Hi Gilbert,
      I have always been very shy. Growing up I had a physically and verbally abusive parent and it took me until my early 30s to be comfortable talking to people at work. The verbal abuse affected me much more than the physical. If my own parent would tell me my ideas were stupid and that I was an idiot what would strangers say and think if I spoke to them?
      When email and texting came into my world, things got much easier for me as I was able to communicate without people seeing my body language. I believe this gave me the confidence I needed to start approaching people in person. However, I must say that my preferred mode of communication is still email or text. 🙂
      -Jenn

  2. Laury,
    I love your posting and take on this weeks assignment. I still sometimes have body language that does not match what I am saying. I often tell my husband that I want to come across confident and sure of myself but I honestly don’t know how to do this if it’s not what I’m feeling.
    My thought on the face to face mode was that perhaps she felt bad having to ask him for the data when she knew how busy he was because that is how I would feel. However, work is work so asking respectfully (but looking uncomfortable doing it) would have to do.
    -Jenn

    • Hi Jenn, thanks for sharing your story.
      Gilbert – as Jenn illustrated, a lot of people will not feel comfortable speaking with other co-workers, especially in a situation where you have to pressure the other to get a report urgently.
      Sometimes, I am like you Jenn, and prefer to use a text or an email to send a clear message, instead of having to stress out to have to face some situation!

  3. Laury,

    You bring up a very good point. For instance, you state, “In the face-to-face example, the facial expression of the woman is tense, but the tone of voice is not matching with this feeling. The pace is slow, lacking the energy that would be needed to transmit such information, and her body language is not engaged either.” I agree that body language should match verbal messages, as it can be confusing to the receiver, and due to the mismatch between her body language and tone of voice, I can you how Marc may not receive her request with a sense of urgency.

  4. As after spending many years in law enforcement and the going into the world of education, I had and still have to be very careful with my body language and tone of voice. I am so direct and confrontational that email does work better for me in that I can use please and thank you often and not come across as authoritative.
    I am glad that you have overcome some shyness and written communication helped you b e successful despite your hurt.
    Sonya

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