Modes of Communication: When reading between the lines gets blurry

This assignment called for us to observe an instance of communication through 3 different modalities; email, voicemail and face-to-face.  The following are my observations regarding each of the attempts at communication:

It seemed that I was sensing panic and impatience from Jane but I also sensed that she was making an effort not to sound too alarming and accusatory.  However she did sound mildly irritated.  Her email left me wondering; Did she copy others on this email in an effort to drum up charges against Mark’s work? Could this email be used in a smear campaign?

The voicemail came across as more of a personal touch.  I sensed Jane’s concern and anxiety over the missing pieces she needed to complete her own work but in hearing her voice it wasn’t overtly confrontational or accusatory.  Still there was room for doubt.  Was she angry but just exercising restraint?  Is she gearing up to make Mark look bad? 

There was more warmth conveyed in the message. It was clear that Jane wasn’t to the point of anger or  irritability but she was extending her co-worker the professional courtesy of interfacing with them to voice her concerns over his adherence to the timeline.

This exercise confirmed my suspicion that despite your best effort to craft the pitch perfect email it can really never go over as well as an audio or visual interaction–preferably face to face.  In the professional realm, my preferred mode of communication is email because it allows me to get messages quickly to multiple people…that and I like the idea of having a paper trail documenting any exchanges.  This activity has helped me realize that I need to be more open to face-to-face exchanges and employ them wherever possible as it decreases the chance of things getting lost in translation.


5 thoughts on “Modes of Communication: When reading between the lines gets blurry

  1. Asha I am now following your blog for Project Management Class.

    Good thoughts on all three modes of communication. I too like to send e-mail out when I communicate with the students at school. The hard part is that some of the never read their e-mails. We always have to make sure we are getting our point across so that others will not get the wrong impression about the email. Your right f2f is much better when you need to talk about something important. So that we know the other person understand us by watching their body language and you get feedback right away. I also have to work on the f2f communication, oh take this example while I was in Afghanistan I learned some of the Dari language before I left the states. I still needed to use an interpreter for most of the communication so I could get my point across talking to the locals. Watching the body language help in certain situation where I needed to know if one of the Afghans were nervous about something.

  2. Good post Asha,
    I always find it interesting how people can hear and/or see the same message, yet have a different perception of it. I think that this assignment truly demonstrates not only our perceptions of the methods of communication, but also our preferences. As you mentioned you like the idea of having a paper trail documenting any exchanges. At work, my communication is typically f2f because it is a small school, so it is easy and convenient. However, when it comes to dealing with co-workers that work in the distinct, my communications of choice is email and rarely use voicemail. Regardless of our preference, we just need to keep in mind what Dr. Stolovich stated in one of this week’s videos regarding the influences of effective communication (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.): (1) Spirit and attitude (2) Tonality and body language (3) Timing (4) Personality of recipient Thank you for sharing your insightful perceptions.


    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Multimedia]. Project Management in Education and Training. Retrieved from

  3. Excellent post, Asha. Of the three modes of communication, I too thought that the e-mail message was the most lacking in communication effectiveness mainly as I felt it was poorly written. Your comment, “Her email left me wondering; Did she copy others on this email in an effort to drum up charges against Mark’s work? Could this email be used in a smear campaign?” was interesting and caused me to wonder if Jane was someone who might have a personal agenda against Mark. It is hard to know this without more information being provided, but perhaps Jane’s intentions, if she copied others in her email to Mark, was to reinforce the fact that Mark had made a commitment to follow-up and using an e-mail creates a record of sorts.

    Portny et al. describe this use of written communication in a fashion, “…project managers should confirm agreements in writing. Written confirmation clarifies the agreements reached and serves as a reminder of the promises made.” (pp. 257-258, 2008). We will never know Jane’s intention in this vignette, but I would hope that her email was meant more as a gentle reminder to Mark of his obligations to the project. Of course, Mark might deny receiving the e-mail, since it is not easy to confirm that a written message transmitted was in fact received.

  4. I’ve been in a situation where having a paper trail (email-trail?) saved me. I had been asking by email for months about how to go about some of my work. I never received a response, so I decided to go my own way. Months later I was asked why I did it that way and I was able to show the evidence of why I did.

  5. Great observation Asha. I agree that both the e-mail and voicemail examples left more to the imagination than the face-to-face method. In these two examples, (and as you noted) you can tell that the sender is concerned but it leaves you wondering about the level of frustration that this person has. I felt that the face-to-face method was the best option as the receiver could visually observe both verbal and non-verbal cues that help interpret the message more effectively. I think this mode is best when communicating a message as urgent as this one. Both parties appeared to be in close proximity (cubicles) so there was no reason why the face-to-face method would be a challenge. In my opinion, e-mails and voicemails should be used when face-to-face communication is not an option.

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