This week’s blog assignment felt a little like being on Candid Camera, except we (the students) were forewarned by the instructions, taking away some of the authenticity intended. The assignment was to review the same message from The Art of Effective Communication (Laureate Education, Inc. [Laureate], 2010) in three different media formats: email (written), voicemail (audio), and face-to-face (video), and record our perceptions of the message to each. Unfortunately, the instructions themselves may have biased us from completely authentic reactions and/or perceptions to the message, in addition to our own personal colored glasses.
How did your interpretation of the message change from one modality to the next?
Honestly, my interpretation varied little due to modality mainly because I am a very visual and literal individual. Plus, I have spent many years learning how to interpret meaning behind words. The text from the email was as follows (Laureate, 2010, p. 2):
I know you have been busy and possibly in that all day meeting today, but I really need an ETA on the missing report. Because your report contains data I need to finish my report, I might miss my own deadline if I don’t get your report soon. Please let me know when you think you can get your report sent over to me, or even if you can send the data I need in a separate email.
I really appreciate your help.
The interactive program begins with instructions and then the first slide is the Email slide with the verbiage quoted hereinabove. This was probably an inadvertent mistake on the designers’ side. Perhaps, they did not consider the psychological ramifications of having the actual text provided first. By providing me with the text first, I was able to dissect the text (which is what I typically do with textbooks or other reading material, even transcripts of videos). For myself, I find that I am able to understand the connotation more clearly as well as the intended meaning.
For instance, in the email, “I know you have been busy and possibly in that all day meeting today…” indicates that the sender is understanding that the receiver has a busy schedule, in addition to providing a possible explanation for why the receiver has not provided the missing report, “… but I really need an ETA on the missing report.”
The sender then gives the receiver a reason for the message, “…Because your report contains data I need to finish my report, I might miss my own deadline if I don’t get your report soon.” In addition to the reason for the message there is also expressed concern over missing their own deadlines and projection of some accountability onto the receiver. I also felt a little bit as if the sender were coaxing the receiver emotionally.
The next statement, “Please let me know when you think you can get your report sent over to me, or even if you can send the data I need in a separate email” again demonstrating respectfulness with the polite phrasing “please” in addition to consideration of the receiver’s busy schedule. The sender is also providing a possible solution alluding to the receiver being able to provide either a time when the report can be sent or just providing the necessary data.
Lastly, the sender states, “I really appreciate your help.” Again, the sender has requested information politely, respectfully, and generously attributed the response of the receiver as helpful instead of required.
The content from the email clearly demonstrated to me what Dr. Stolovich identified as diplomacy exemplified by a project manager’s skillful communication (Laureate, 2010). Further, by documenting the communication in written form there is no misunderstanding that the request has not been made because it is a formal request (Portney, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008; Laureate, 2010).
The other two modalities (audio and video) both provided the exact same message. The differences were not in the message as much as they were in the possible perceptions of the message. For instance, both the audio and video were informal in nature. The audio can be listened to and erased, misremembered, etc. The video of the face-to-face was a stop-by visit by a coworker with a request. In either situation, the receiver could be distracted thinking of something else or easily misinterprets the important of the information. Further, the tone of the audio and video message could persuade the receiver that the information is important, but perhaps not as critical. In addition, the body language of the person in the video seemed almost apologetic for requesting the information. The audio and video represented the communications concepts discussed by Dr. Stolovich as spirit and attitude, tonality and body language, timing of message statement (words), and personality of both sender and recipient (Laureate, 2010).
What factors influenced how you perceived the message?
As previously stated, the factors that influenced my perceptions were (1) I am a visually literate individual, (2) the different modalities of the information provided, and (3) the resources indicating the differences to consider in formal and informal communications (Portney et al., 2008; Laureate, 2010). The perceptions of the message may have varied for others dependent upon their learning styles as well. An especially auditory person may have picked up different inflections in the tones of the words. Similarly, a person really interpersonally adept may have picked up more clues from the sender’s body language, apologetic grin, etc.
Which form of communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message?
Personally, I believe the written form best exemplified the true meaning and intent of the message, but I am not the original sender so it is impossible to verify. The audio and video did seem much more informal, but the written message clearly indicated the receiver had a responsibility that had been overlooked to date.
What are the implications for communicating effectively with members of a project team?
According to the resources, as well as personal experience, the implication is simple. Communication is paramount! Without communication the client misunderstands, the co-workers revolt, the boss fires you and the deal falls through!
Drama aside, diplomacy is very important. Additionally, though informal communications may seem more friendly and less stiff, it is important to remember to document everything said and done in a project or in a meeting because even seemingly innocuous decisions can come back to haunt you should a stakeholder or upper management become dissatisfied with the outcome of the project. My previous and current background in the legal industry has demonstrated to me on more than one occasion how very quickly friendly oral agreements become nasty lawsuits and couples in love for the duration turn into contestants for love wars using children and property as their weapons of choice. The written word is so much more comforting than a promise in the air. It is also much easier to enforce.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). The art of effective communication [Video]. Available from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Project management concerns: Communication strategy [Video]. Available from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Communicating with stakeholders. [Video]. Available from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Practitioner voices: Working with stakeholders. [Video]. Available from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.
Portney, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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.