Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Effective Communication

As an exercise in effective communication, I was tasked with receiving a message communicated in three different modalities: email, voicemail, and in person.  The message was the same each time with the only difference being the delivery method. 

First Impressions

Email – I was definitely put off by this email.  I had to read it several times to get a clear idea of what was being asked.  Dr. Stolovich, in Communicating with Stakeholders, discussed the need for written communication to have a very clear purpose statement (Laureate Education, n.d.). 

Voicemail – The voicemail did not elicit as negative a response as the email, however, it was still lacking.  The lack of clear statement made me have to listen to it several times to determine what was being requested.

In-person – Truthfully, I found this to delivery to be the worst.  Dr. Stolovich also discussed the influence of tonality and body language in effective communication (Laureate Education, n.d.).  In this exchange, her body language conveyed several messages that were very off-putting and her tone was rather bored as if it was a chore to have this conversation.

Interpretation and Perception
My interpretation of the message was affected by my perception of the message.  In the email, I saw nothing but “I” in the message.  It was all about Jane and what she wanted with no regard to Mark’s busy day.  I interpreted that email negatively and I would have been less likely to comply with the request.  The voicemail was difficult to follow and required more than one listen, but I was more inclined to interpret the message positively.  In-person, however, was different.  Even though the tone was the same, the body language was the problem. 

Putting it all Together
When communicating with team members, it is important to be mindful of how the message may be interpreted.  Dr. Stolovich indicated that only 7% of a message is conveyed by words (Laureate Education, n.d.).  I was surprised that I reacted as strongly to the written message as I assumed that it would be less likely to be problematic.  However, it seems that how something is written is just as important as how something is said.  The voicemail was the least problematic for me, but when coupled with the body language of the in-person communication, the same message became loaded with accusation and disdain.  Just flicking her fingers when stating it was Mark’s data holding her up was enough to make me stop listening. 

After this exercise, I see that an effective project manager is going to be a referee who averts potential conflict based on communication misunderstandings.  In addition, as a program manager, it will be important to control one’s own tone and non-verbal communication.  The trick will be finding balance without becoming wooden and stiff.


Laureate Education (Producer).  (n.d.).  Communicating with stakeholders [Video file].  Retrieved from


  1. Rebecca, communication in project management is definitely an art. It sounds like you have some good insight. I am currently having some issues in this area. It seems I am too nice and not forceful enough. The person I am trying to communicate with seems to be a team player in public but passively resists me when I really need something. I am trying to put together a project management plan that involves this person, and I need her input. I end up getting put off for more important tasks. Do you have any tips in dealing with this type of situation where team members are passively resistant?

  2. Preston,
    I think that one can be nice AND assertive at the same time. I work with a manager whose communication skills are unbelievable. But being a cagey old Master Chief probably doesn't hurt! In a previous life, I worked in biker bars and bowling alleys. I learned to communicate very directly. I also learned to read nonverbal cues as a means of survival. I really believe that most of coworkers are oblivious to nonverbal cues.

    I have a co-worker just like that and what I have ended up doing is cc'ing his direct supervisor whenever I need input from him. I maintain a professional and friendly demeanor in emails, and try to keep my message clear and to the point.
    At first I was a bit hesitant about involving his manager, but it was the only way I could guarantee that he would respond!

  3. Email is treated so informally it allows this potentially valuable form communication to be almost harmful at times. Simply proofreading would make some emails much more helpful. I would benefit from a delay that made me read the text again before actually sending to avoid careless mistakes and vague language.

    Avoiding the self-centered nature of this email example is key to better business communication. By removing opinions, inconveniences, and agendas and sticking to the facts, schedules and details, the focus remains on the task. This concept could be an entire course and it seems as though you are qualified to teach it.