What we got here is… failure to communicate. (Pearce & Pierson, 1967)
These words have been quoted (and often misquoted) to describe a situation where information has not been disseminated very well. I actually use it quite often myself when I find I have not been able to get my point across. More often than not when there is breakdown in communication we blame the hearer (receiver) of the message. However, the onus of failed communication should fall with the sender (communicator) of the message.
‘The ‘Sender’ of a communication message can influence the outcome to a large extent. Knowing about which factors are most responsible for miscommunication certainly helps. Applying rules and guidelines guarantees that the probability of your message arriving the way you intended it increases. Knowing about the receiver and trying to adjust your message to the way he perceives communication is perfect (Dingemans, 2011). Ahhhhh, if it was only that easy. There is a reason it is called the art, not science of communication.
Dr. Harold Stolovitch, PhD, CPT, states that effective communication is influenced by several standards: spirit and attitude; tonality and body language; timing and personality of recipient (Stolovitch, n.d.). All of these should be taken into consideration when transmitting critical project information. It is interesting to note that all of these standards involve non-verbal communication. Communication is conveyed through context and content. Content is what is communicated, context is how it is being communicated. Generally, how we say something overrides what we say. How many times have you heard, ‘it’s not what you say but how you say it’? As a result we must be careful how we transmit information based on the modes we have available: email, voicemail (phone) or face-to-face.
The different modes of communication convey different context –
Based on this information, your first mode of communication should be face-to-face followed by a phone call. Only if you cannot manage the first two should you rely on an email (Cerri, 2006). Emails should be relegated to mostly providing written documentation of communication that has transpired and not so much for the dissemination of new information.
As part of this week’s assignment we were to listen to the same message communicated through the three modes mentioned earlier in this writing. After listening to ‘The Art of Effective Communication’, my thoughts are:
- The email was cluttered and easy to dismiss as it appeared to be written in a passive voice. There were no concrete deadlines given and the request was easy to dismiss as it started with allowing the receiver an ‘out’ with stating that they were busy and it would be understandable if the request could not be filled.
- The voicemail was still in a passive tone, but did not appear to be as pleading as the email. Still easy to dismiss the request as there didn’t appear to be any urgency.
- The face-to-face meeting was most effective as you are able to see the person making the request and can ascertain from the body language and facial expressions that the request required immediate attention.
All of that being said, there is fourth standard I believe is in play when communicating. Oftentimes our inter-personal relationships affect how we receive information and respond to direction. So I would say an effective communicator also ensures they have a good working relationship with the receiver so that they are open to receiving whatever information is being transmitted.
But that’s just my opinion.
Cerri, S. (2006, December 18). Being Understood #2. Retrieved July 16, 2015, from Steven Cerri Blog: http://www.stevencerri.com/being-understood-2/
Dingemans, A.-M. (2011, April 27). Who is to blame for miscommunication? Retrieved July 15, 2015, from Globalizen: http://www.globalizen.com/who-is-to-blame-for-miscommunication/
Carroll, G., DeHaven, Jr., C. (Producers), Pearce, D., Pierson, F. R. (Writers), & Rosenberg, S. (Director). (1967). Cool Hand Luke [Motion Picture] [Motion Picture]. USA: Warner Bors./Seven Arts.
Education, L. (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video File] [Motion Picture]. USA.
The Art of Effective Communication. (n.d.). Retrieved July 16, 2015, from Laureate Media: http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html