Effective Communication

Have you ever received an email or IM from someone that started with “No, I…”? What did you hear when you read this? Was it positive? Did you think the person typing the message was being friendly or encouraging? In all likelihood after receiving that message you probably felt as if someone has scolded you simply because of the way the message began. The fact that you couldn’t the tone of the message can change the delivery 100%. Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, Inc.) clearly stated that “communication is not just words.” I have given the advice more than once to colleagues who were frustrated with a written communication that they shouldn’t read tone into an email or text. It is always best to speak with the person face to face before interpreting a written message with a certain tone.

I just completed an activity where the same message was given in three different mediums – first by email, second by voicemail and then finally face-to-face. In the message Jane is asking Mark for a report she needs in order to complete her own work and have it in on time. When I read the email from Jane it came across as being annoyed or frustrated with Mark and the situation. She starts by saying that she knows he is busy and she ends with saying she appreciates his help, but the message between these two things makes it seem as though these sentiments are simply her way of trying to get what she wants. The voicemail didn’t seem much different to me. Jane sounded annoyed and somewhat demanding and put off that her own work could be late because she is waiting on Mark. In fact, what she said in the voicemail was exactly the tone I read from the email. The finally message was face-to-face and the body language, facial expressions and tone used helped the message to come across as more of a friendly reminder than of an annoyed colleague. It was a completely different message in my observation.

I think the take away from this activity is that when things are due and there is something that needs to get done or an important message that needs to be communicated it is best to do it in person when necessary. However, sometimes it is not possible and when messages must be conveyed from a distance it is best by phone using an appropriate tone or if absolutely necessary through a written message avoiding the use of certain phrases or words that may come across as negative and demanding like the first example I gave. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008) tell us that “whatever form communications take…project managers should plan and prepare so their messages are received and correctly interpreted” (p. 367). Communication is key to a successful project and how the communication is delivered can make all the difference as to whether it is effective or destructive.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). Communicating with Stakeholders. (Media Resources). Boston, MA: Stolovitch.

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.


4 thoughts on “Effective Communication

  1. I agree it is best to try communicate face-to-face whenever it is possible, but I think it is important to remain objective when reading emails or listening to a voice mail. Since you can’t see the person, I don’t think it’s fair to assume the worst. I think in this case it was fair for her to be very straight-forward because of the severity of the situation.

  2. Amanda,
    I found it very interesting that everybody perceives the three communication modality differently. I know a face-to-face message is the most effective in most cases and I expected the same in the face-to-face message for this assignment. Surprisingly, I gave the lowest score on the face-to-face as it shows laid-back tone of voice, no urgency, no sufficient body language. I rather perceived voicemail conveyed the message more efficiently showing her sense of urgency. I didn’t feel “push” in the voicemail. I liked the email mode as well. As you stated, “starts by saying that she knows he is busy and she ends with saying she appreciates his help,” isn’t it prototypical we send emails? I would like to hear your opinion on that so that if there is anything I need to change in sending emails, I should or try.

    • Hi Su,

      I think, when sending email, we should always try and stick to the facts and not include the “nicities” that may cause others to read tone into our written words. For instance, at the beginning of the email when stating she knows he is busy, if that was stated in a friendly manner then it would not cause a negative response, but since it is typed someone could read it to have been said in a way that it implies she thinks he is wasting time and she doesn’t know what he is doing with his time but she is trying to get her work done and now she is stuck until he does his first. If she simply would have stated in the email that she needs his report so she can complete hers within the allotted timeframe I think there would be less tendency to read tone into the email. Does this make sense? In email, stick to the facts! Leave the other comments to face to face meetings where others can tell what you mean by the comments. My two cents… for what its worth. 🙂

  3. Hi Su:

    I am the opposite from most in that I felt the urgency through reading the e-mail rather than from the other methods. I felt as if her tone was friendly in both the voice mail message and face to face and did not really sense the urgency via either of those communication methods.

    I did not feel a sense of urgency at all via the face-to-face as the body language was pretty laid back and smiled at the end and just did not read into the sense of urgency. I also felt the same when listening to the voice mail as I just did not sense the urgency.

    As stated in my blog posting, it might have been because I strictly work online and although I send and receive voice mail messages, I more easily assessible via e-mail, so have a heightened sense of urgency when an e-mail is recieved.
    I find it interesting how each of use tend to view communication methods differently!


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