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First steps in Instructional Design!

Communication as an Art

miscommunication(image credit: Jennie Joy Barrows)

Upon viewing this week’s multimedia program, I agree that effective communication truly is an art. Everyone brings their own history, understanding, and experience to each interaction and it can clearly cause difficulty if someone assumes that others think the same way they do. In the modalities given, I noticed a softening of her message that corresponded to the level of personal interaction. For example, her email seemed formal, a bit demanding, and forceful when she said, for example, “I need an ETA on the missing report…”. However, when she said it on the phone and even more so in person, she sounded friendly, willing to cooperate, and not demanding in the least. In Communicating with Stakeholders, Dr. Stolovitch emphasized that communication is not simply words, but is influenced by factors such as spirit and attitude, tonality and body language, timing, and the personality of the recipient (Laureate Education, n.d.). This is most evident when the message is delivered via text only, without the benefit of the factors Dr. Stolovitch mentioned, such as body language and tonality.

What this means as a future project manager and instructional designer is that I must be cognizant of the method of delivery for both high-level and daily correspondence. I cannot assume that others will interpret my relaxed and friendly tone via email, but that many messages should be delivered in a more personal manner in order to avoid misinterpretation and miscommunication. In addition to this, Dr. Stolovitch also emphasized that we must document all communication, even an informal conversation. His idea of keeping a daily, informal journal is very realistic in today’s busy office environments (Laureate Education, n.d.). Making simple notes throughout the day as you have conversations will likely come in handy at some point in the project. Another point to consider is whom I am delivering the message to. In Practitioner Voices: Strategies for Working with Stakeholders, Dr. Budrovich says to tailor your communication in order to fit the needs of your stakeholders, not just to communicate in the style that is most preferred by you (Laureate Education, n.d.). This entails getting to know project team members and communicating with them in the manner in which the message will be the most readily received. Dr. Budrovitch usually keeps people informed through a combination of email and public meetings, while delivering more personalized messages to the high-level stakeholders (Laureate Education, n.d.). But, considering that communication is an art, this combination may not be appropriate for every work environment.

This exercise clearly demonstrates how communication is affected by the factors that Dr. Stolovitch discussed. It is crucial for project managers and instructional designers to be aware of the “message” they are sending along with their actual correspondence through their tone or choice of words. These “messages” can add to confusion or frustration on a project if not handled properly. Effective communication can be achieved with a bit of work, thought, and care for the recipient along with the information being conveyed.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer) (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3468161_1%26url%3D

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer) (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Strategies for working with stakeholders. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3468161_1%26url%3D

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13 comments on “Communication as an Art

  1. Renae Klee
    September 19, 2013

    Genah,
    I agree with many of the points you made in this week’s blog. Within my workplace, the primary source of communication is email. However, I’ve experienced some complicated issues with students where it is just easier to call someone or speak to them in person in order to properly convey a situation. When I do communicate by email, I always re-read my messages a couple of times to make sure my wording sounds appropriate for the meaning behind my message. I have yet for anyone to be offended or misunderstand one of my written messages, so I plan to continue my current method. I also think documentation of spoken conversations is a good practice, and one that I should consider starting myself.

  2. genahloger
    September 21, 2013

    Hi Renae,
    Email really is perfect in so many ways because it is like “automatic documentation”. I usually do the same as you, reread what I have written for any possible misunderstandings and/or speak with someone in person when something is overly complex or sensitive. What I hadn’t ever done was then document those conversations for a later date, which seems to be pretty essential in PM and in many other fields for that matter. Whenever I start to work as an ID, I will definitely remember to document everything, especially if I am acting in the role of a PM!

  3. lucasmontrice
    September 21, 2013

    Hi Genah,
    I agree that tone, body language, attitude, timing, etc. are very important when conveying a message correctly. You are so right about how the email differed from the face-to-face communication. Although she said the same thing it did seem less demanding. I personally don’t think she was specific enough though. She told him as soon as possible, but what if he puts getting the information to her off because she didn’t express the urgency in him getting the information to her soon. His ASAP could be a month or two later. I just really think she should have given him a timeframe.

    Montrice

    • genahloger
      September 23, 2013

      You know Montrice, as I was reading other people’s posts, I realized I was focusing only on tone and the method of delivery and not in the fact that you pointed out, that she wasn’t being specific enough with her choice of words. The information on p. 107 of our Portny text lays out the potential pitfalls in PM, with vagueness being one factor. Great point!

  4. tonishirleyidt
    September 21, 2013

    Within my department, I am afraid I am the Queen of Too Little and my manager is the Queen of Too Much. I will often a answer a question (closed ended question mind you) with a yes or no. Unfortunately, that doesn’t read well in email form. On the flip side, my manager will answer a closed ended question with 6 paragraphs.

  5. lucasmontrice
    September 22, 2013

    Wooooowww 6 paragraphs… I honestly would lose interest…. It’s sad but true. Sometimes I just can’t get myself to listen that long.

  6. Amanda Archer
    September 22, 2013

    Genah,

    Thanks so much for your post this week! You brought up a point here that I haven’t seen in other posts and I completely agree with – sometimes the mode of communication will depend more on the person it is being communicated to than the actual content of the communication. Even in reading different people’s responses to the activity this week it shows. Some people thought the email was the best way to communicate this information while others thought that face-to-face would be most effective (these are usually those who read negative tone into the email message, myself included). As a project manager we need to know the people we are managing. Some people are going to need more face-to-face communication than others. Some people simply do not respond well to straight forward, to the point direction while others appreciate it and would expect nothing less. Interesting, this makes me think of our post discussions this week as well, the students in the program seemed to like the “harsh” way that the standards were enforced or at least they were achieving success that way while those who had dropped out could not handle it. It is dependent on the person receiving the communication. As a project manager, we need to know who those are that will need emotional hand holding. It may be time consuming, but it will save the team from the drama of reading tone into an email or Instant Message.

    Was this what you were thinking when you made that comment? 🙂 I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this!

    Amanda

    • genahloger
      September 23, 2013

      Hi Amanda,

      I think initially it might be time consuming figuring out who responds to what form of communication best, but I think (and hope!) that it will simply become natural communicating after that with the specific people in each way. Dr. Budrovich seemed to use about the same method of communicating with most everyone in the lower ranks of the team through using a combination of emails and public meetings. He reserved the more personal styles of communication for the higher level people. I agree that it would be a hassle, at least in the beginning, but I think it might be worth it in the end! What do you think?

  7. ewestmore
    September 22, 2013

    You made some excellent points about communication. I especially like your comments about tailoring your methods to different stakeholders. I think that too often project managers and instructional designers focus on need and expediency rather than how the message is interpreted and the preferred method of communication from our recipients. Since the project manager is tasked with keeping the project communication moving, it’s an excellent reminder that we may have to change our communication style. Thanks, Elizabeth

  8. Michelle
    September 22, 2013

    Communication has to be clear and concise from the beginning of any project. Having a kick off meeting at the beginning starts the project off on the same foot for everyone. It can bring all stakeholders and project team members together to hear each side and kick off as a “team”.

    Creation of a communication plan to discuss and share at the kick off would be beneficial as well. This way everyone knows who to go to with an issue or concern and how the hierarchy will proceed throughout the project

    • genahloger
      September 23, 2013

      Michelle,

      I also love the idea of a kickoff meeting. It just sounds like the most logical way to get everyone started seeing eye to eye. People can share concerns, ask questions, and leave feeling a part of the project and not like they are simply doing a job. I think it can be a great motivating experience for a team if done in the right way too!

  9. Matthew Pittman
    September 23, 2013

    As always, great post! I think you did an excellent job of explaining the important factors that impact how a message is received. Who you deliver the message to certainly can determine how you deliver the message. The current head of the division my department is part of has very particular communication protocols. For this person, don’t even both calling or stopping by their office. If you want to communicate, send it in email or schedule an appointment (via email) during the hours dedicated to your campus. If you try to communicate with her using methods outside of emails or a scheduled meeting you will not receive a positive outcome. I personally, think this is a step too far, but I also understand the demands of the position and the sheer number of things that demand attention from this person. So I can see where it comes from. In this case, better delegation and management could help.

    • genahloger
      September 23, 2013

      Wow Matthew, it sounds really tough to get in touch with your department head! I see your point how she might need a bit of protocol in place otherwise she may not get much done, but I agree with you that it sounds all like a bit much. A boss should be approachable and reachable when you need them, otherwise it is hard to move on with your own work having to wait for your boss to communicate infrequently. You mentioned better delegation and management would probably help her situation, but could you be more specific? Share a few thoughts as to what you think she could do to delegate or manage better so that she is more available? Thanks for sharing.

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This entry was posted on September 19, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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