Communication: Can you hear me now?

24 May

When you take the time to try and communicate, miracles can happen:

In a recent activity, this blogger was asked to review the same statement presented in three different modalities:  a text/e-mail, a phone message, and a video clip.  Of course, how each one was interpreted was slightly different.  The email/text message could easily be interpreted as kind, pleading, and polite but rambling.  The Phone message came across to this listener as being much more firm and direct, with an emphasis on time and deadlines, all based on the timing and tone of the voice (Laureate, 2010).  The video clip shared the same exact statement, but came across as friendly, understanding and patient, based on the speaker’s body language, even if her smile might have been a mixed signal which downplayed the importance of her statement.  As the Project Management mentor, Dr. Stolovitch, points out in his training video; everybody knows that 93% of communication is not what you say, but how you say it (Laureate, 2010).

Each Team Member’s, Stakeholder’s,  and Project Manager’s INTERPRETATION  of what is said is quite another matter, and can often be a reflection of their own situation, cultural training, agenda, outside interference, or emotional state.  Even the best and most well-practiced diplomat can be challenged with getting a message clearly across to a listener, from time to time (Laureate, 2010).  The value of communicating over the phone in our example exercise may have been the most effective way for the speaker to stress the importance of their message, without rambling or sending mixed diplomatic signals to a visual learner, but inevitably, it is best for a manager who is intending to communicate clearly, to understand the preferred and effective communication styles of their audience, if not each audience member uniquely (Laureate, 2010).


Knowing each stakeholder’s best communication modality is a bit like knowing each student’s learning style and preference.  The most effective diplomats are able not only to communicate clearly and effectively, but are also able to treat each stakeholder as if they were a dignitary from a unique culture, and communicate with them by “mirroring” their unique vernacular and body-language cues (The Communication Help Center, 2013).  Depending on a project’s time-table, the luxury of “figuring out what makes each stakeholder tick,” can be a both a challenge and highly rewarding.   As the Golden Rule teaches; treat others how you would want to be treated… however, the “Platinum Rule” raises the game with; “Treat others how THEY would expect to be treated.”  While this may be equally difficult for kind-hearted as well as ultra-demanding Project Managers, it may actually be essential for Project Management Success.  “Know Thy Stakeholders,” is the First Commandment when using this technique, while at minimum, a leader should know how to communicate effectively to their intended audience as a cultural group. (Portney, et al, 2008 & Laureate, 2010).


Cartoon (2013). Facebook: Timeline Photos: The Secret to Humor is Surprise Fan Page. Retrieved from

Laureate, Inc. (Producer).  The art of effective communication, (2010).  [Interactive multimedia exercise].  Retrieved from

Laureate, Inc. (Producer).  Communicating with stakeholders:  Dr. Stolovitch discusses communication strategies and managing client expectations.  (2010).  [Video Podcast].  Retrieved from

Laureate, Inc. (Producer).  Project Management Concerns: Communication Strategies and Organizational Culture: Dr. Stolovitch gives Carole Kramer advice on adjusting her communication style to fit her client’s culture. (2010).  [Video Podcast].  Retrieved from

The Communication Help Center (2013).  Mirroring:  A communication tool for generating rapport.  Retrieved from


Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Uncategorized


6 responses to “Communication: Can you hear me now?

  1. Patricia

    May 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Eileen, you brought out some very interesting and true points in this blog. The one that penetrated me the most is “Know Thy Stakeholders”. Whether it is formal or informal, written or verbal, communication needs to be clear and concise so the recipients of the message understand what is being relayed (Portny, et al., 2008).

    As for the three different forms of communication we critiqued I do believe the voice-mail was the most effective (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). All three gave a different tone, relayed what was needed from the recipient of the message but gave me, the reader, a different feeling. It is important to choose the right form of communication and sometimes asking what form would be best for the receiver will be most effective.

    Written communication can effectively help in avoiding some conflicts among team members they may encounter while working in a project (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). The way you deliver a message can have implications for the way your message is perceived (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

    I enjoyed reading your blog post and the cartoon picture said a lot all by itself as well. See you in the next blog assignment.


    Cartoon (2013). Facebook: Timeline Photos: The Secret to Humor is Surprise Fan Page. Retrieved from

    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders. [DVD]. Baltimore, MD.

    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). The art of effective communication, (2010). [Interactive multimedia exercise]. Retrieved from

    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.

  2. janicehoroschak

    May 25, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Hello Eileen,

    I love the quote you chose “communication is not what you say, but how you say it” (Laureate, 2010) and that really does exactly that. That is so true and I think can get lost in emails quickly if people “ramble” as you stated. I also like how your chose to talk about “mirroring” and feel this is not only helpful in a sales environment but anywhere, where you are depending on people and them doing what you want them to do. This falls right in line with Dr. Stolovich’s Effective Communication tactics for using proper attitude, proper tone and body language and timing to fit the stakeholders personality (Laureate Education Inc., 2010) This was a great post.

    Janice Horoschak


    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). Communicating with stakeholders: Dr. Stolovitch discusses communication strategies and managing client expectations. (2010). [Video Podcast]. Retrieved from

  3. Carol Spear

    May 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Wonderful post! I love the cartoon and video clip. According to Dr. Stolovitch (n.d.), communication must be clear, concise and focused so that everyone stays on target. Important communication is best delivered when all team members are present. Document oral communications and make sure written communication:
    • Begin with a clear purpose
    • State the situation
    • Include possible solutions
    • Indicate if signoff is required
    • Specify the form that the response is required to take
    • Keep tone of all communications business friendly and respectful
    Set standards of communication with clients:
    • Frequency
    • Form of written and oral communication
    • Response time frames
    • Language
    • Format
    • Establish rules of participation
    • Avoid ambiguity
    Stolovich, H. (Producer). (n.d.) Communicating with Stakeholders. Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from

  4. Kelley Savage

    May 26, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I found it interesting that you found the voicemail communication the most effective mode of communication, mainly because I found face-to-face communication to be the most effective mode of communication. I drew my conclusion based on the information presented in our multimedia program and with my personal experience; to me face-to-face communication is the most effective because you are not only hearing their tone but are also able to read their body language and facial expressions, which help us to paint a more clear picture of the intended message. I agree with your assessment of the direct message tone of the voicemail and the mixed messages of the face-to-face conversation provided in our multimedia presentation, but I feel that the words said were the same, but the actor portrayed the message completely different in the voicemail and face-to-face scenarios. So I do not feel that the scenarios were set up to portray an accurate assessment of the better mode of communication.

  5. Sarah.Holliday

    May 27, 2013 at 12:52 am


    The quote, ” 93% of communication is not what you say, but how you say it” (Laurete, 2010) is very true. When communicating with others, especially over the phone, your words have a major impact on how the recipient interprets your message. Sarcasm is very hard to convey because the listener is unable to visualize your facial expressions, thus, your tone of voice can make or break the line of communication. There is nothing worse than dealing with an individual who uses sarcasm as a form of flattery or “breaking the ice”. Once you say words, they cannot be taken back and can stick with a person for a very long time.

    Laureate, Inc. (Producer). The art of effective communication, (2010). [Interactive multimedia exercise]. Retrieved from

  6. Synthea Freeman

    May 30, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Please forgive my late comment to your post, but I believe that I have something very substantive to contribute to this topic. I have noticed that many of my fellow scholars have interpreted the very same messages in this exercise quite differently. I would like to share a more personal insight with you into my reaction to the three messaging modalities. It is not my intention to comment on the motivations of those with differing perspectives or opinions, but rather to more fully explore the reasoning behind my own communicative behaviors. I ask that you share your comments with me on my blog at

    As Dr. Harold Stolovitch (Laureate, 2010) illustrated in this week’s video presentation, the “personality of the receiver” is an integral part of effective communication. Since our unique personalities are molded by our cultural experiences, perceiving others and oneself in terms of a cultural identity influences the way we interact with each other (Hybels & Weaver, p.134). Culture also governs our body movements, so it would be impossible to over-emphasize the importance of culture in understanding nonverbal behavior. Hybels and Weaver (2007, p. 63) observed that both verbal and nonverbal messages are affected by what they called intercultural communication; and being aware of the subtle nuances of intercultural communication is an important factor in effective communication, given the growing impact of globalization on the scope of information-age interactions. Another important factor to consider is that nonverbal communication operates at the subconscious level, so we are usually not even aware of it.

    In our verbal communications, paralanguage is the nonverbal component that carries additional messaging content (Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 137). Research has shown that 39% of the meaning in verbal communication is affected by paralinguistic cues (Mehrabian, 1981; cited in Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 137). These cues include the rate or speed of speech, its pitch and volume, and its quality (tempo, resonance, rhythm, and articulation). In our society, people’s paralinguistic and nonverbal (posture, gestures, and facial expressions) behaviors play an important role in conveying information about our personality traits, and in forming the context of our social interactions. This is true from the perspective of both the person perceiving the behavior and the person expressing it (Ethier, 2010).

    I found the voicemail message to be very businesslike and to the point, but rather curt, shrill and maybe even a little condescending. Jane’s rate of speech was somewhat rapid and I could sense an elevated level of stress in her voice. Her emphasis on the word ‘soon’ had an undertone of finality that implied negative consequences. I also got the impression that I was being told what to do. While the voicemail message successfully communicated the essential information contained in the email, it also added more contextual information about the sender’s emotions, motivation and frame of mind.

    But my very first thought at the start of the message delivered by video was “Oh, she’s Black!” and being a woman of African descent, I almost immediately had a more positive reaction to Jane’s presence and an increased receptivity to her message. I was more than a little surprised by my reaction because this could have been a reflection of my own personal racial prejudices. But it could also be indicative of a normal sensitivity to my own cultural heritage and background. Growing up as a child in the South in the early ’60s, I was taught that good pronunciation and elocution were important because “talking proper” kept you from sounding too ’colored’… a good thing if you wanted to find a good job when you grew up!

    In my opinion, the tone of Jane’s voice was warm, caring, and empathetic. Her rate of speech was slower and more thoughtful than in the voice recording and the pitch was lower and more resonate. I felt that she was taking the time to put herself in my shoes and be respectful of my feelings in what could otherwise be viewed as a stressful interaction. Even though she was standing behind a partition and you couldn’t observe her body language, her facial expression, hand gestures, head movement, and highly expressive eye messaging was congruent with the paralinguistics supporting her verbal communications.

    Overall, I would have to say that the tone of the in-person message in the video was almost entirely different from that in the voicemail message. It was almost like the message was from two different people with two different agendas. After a closer comparison of the two messages, I became convinced that the person in the voicemail message is NOT the same person in the video and that the person in the voicemail is definitely White. I believe that I picked up on this incongruity subconsciously, and even before I came to this realization, I had ascribed certain characteristics to her voice which influenced my interpretation of the message.


    In order to more fully understand my reaction, I did a little additional research and I determined that the patterns of behavior between Blacks and Whites can influence nonverbal behavior and produce chronic racial differences in nonverbal skill and behavior (Dovidio, Hebl, Richeson, & Shelton, 1986). The literature also shows that two different dynamics are at play in the cultural expression of Black Americans. E. T. Hall (1966) emphasized the importance of culture in understanding racial differences in nonverbal behavior, hypothesizing that Black culture, relative to that of Whites, reflects a closer and more “sensorially involved” orientation. Jones (1986) observed that Black culture is essentially comprised of two components: an evolutionary component and a reactionary component.

    The evolutionary component (similar to Hall’s “sensorial” orientation) can be seen in many aspects of Black culture that are representative of “the unfolding of a cultural core laid in an African past and characterized in function, if not form, across the cultures of the African Diaspora” (Jones, 1986, p. 294). Jones identified five key elements that are reflected in the five dimensions of time, rhythm, improvisation, oral expression, and spirituality. He observed that these cultural values guide a range of social behaviors, including nonverbal behaviors. The reactionary component refers to the collective adjustments that Black people in the United States have made to cope with oppression and racism. Both components suggest markedly different patterns of racial expression in nonverbal and paralinguistic behaviors. I believe that a commonly shared cultural experience and a reactive adjustment to my linguistic awareness both contributed to my admittedly prejudicial preference for the video version of Jane’s video message to Mark and my aversion to her audio message.

    The question now arises as to whether I can overcome the racial prejudices seemingly embedded in my subconscious cultural programming and improve my objective response to the nonverbal and paralinguistic cues in a more culturally diverse communications environment.


    Ethier, N. A. (2010). Paralinguistic and nonverbal behaviour in social interactions: A lens model perspective (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

    Hall, E. T. (1966). The hidden dimension. New York: Doubleday.

    Hybels, S. & Weaver, R. L. (2007). Communicating Effectively, (8th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill Custom Publishing.

    Jones, J. M. (1986). Racism: A cultural analysis of the problem. In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination, and racism (pp. 279–314). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

    Dovidio, J. F., Hebl, M., Richeson, J. A., & Shelton, J. N. (1986). Nonverbal communication, race, and intergroup interaction. In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination, and racism (pp. 482-500). Orlando, FL: Academic Press. Available at

    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Communicating with Stakeholders, [Video program]. Baltimore, MD: Solution Tree.

    Mehrabian, A. (1981). Silent messages: Implicit communication of emotions and attitudes (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth


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