This week, we have been asked to evaluate the following multimedia program.
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.
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!
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.