Effective Communication is an Art


After viewing the “Art of Effective Communication” activity (Laureate Education, n.d.), I discovered not all forms of communication are equal and the situation determines the appropriate form of communication. In this scenario’s first example of communication, an email, Jane informs Mark that she needs his work in order to complete her project on time. Her request comes across as polite and notes her desperation for the material. She concludes with a request that he reply and attach the file at his earliest convenience. While this message had the earmarks of successful interaction with a teammate noted in a blog by Brounstein, (n.d.), she’s respectful, recognizes Mark has a busy schedule, and states what she needs him to do; she has no guarantee that he will open the email in a timely fashion. In other words, the very nature of email allows the receiver to respond on their terms. As Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) note that the sender never knows if the intended audience ever read the email. This option still leaves Jane in a vulnerable position.

The second scenario, a phone message, communicated the situation more effectively. Jane’s voice for the message adds her tone, (something I indicate to my husband often, “It was your tone-of-voice”). While she is still respectful, her tone communicates her concern more effectively than the email. Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education (n.d.) notes that communication is not just words, but tone, attitude, and other non-verbal cues. The fact that Jane’s voice is recorded captures her urgency more than the email could and perhaps that will motivate Mark to respond in a timely fashion. However, Jane is still in a vulnerable position with this scenario because she still has no idea if Mark will listen to his messages and will respond.

The third scenario, a face-to-face meeting, seemed very similar to the voice recording. Jane is polite, states what she needs, and requests a response from Mark. The face-to-face meeting includes one extra point that the other two don’t have: Mark’s presence. A face-to-face meeting would require Mark to provide an answer, a commitment to Jane’s request. From Jane’s perspective, she gets an answer and won’t have to check emails and voice messages to see if she ever contacted Mark and if he will respond. Now she is looking him in the face and he can’t get off the hook. He has to respond and commit and Jane will know where she stands.

I believe the point of this exercise is not to indicate that a face-to-face communication is the only way to go; we’d never get anything done if that were the case. I think the point is to understand when to use each form to its most valuable effect. Our text sums up good communication by stating, “The key to successful project management is effective communication—sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 357), and I would add the right form of communication. There are times when email is exactly what is required, for example minutes to a meeting, progress reports, etc. Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education (n.d.) comments for effective written information, that every written communication has a purpose stated up front. That way the receiver knows what is needed from them, and you have a paper trail for your communication. Voicemail and face-to-face meetings enable a broader form of communication as it includes the non-written form of communication. Face-to-face communication adds the feature that both parties can question, respond, and refine the information in real time.

Concluding this exercise, I learned that knowing what you need and when is important to consider when choosing the most effective method of getting the message across. As being an effective team member requires good communication, the skill of choosing the best form of communication for the situation is a high priority.


Brounstein, M. (n.d.). Ten qualities of an effective team member. For Dummies. Retrieved from http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/ten-qualities-of-an-effective-team-player.html

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The art of effective communication. [Flash Media] Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Communicating and documenting project progress. In Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling Projects (pp. 356–375). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.



5 thoughts on “Effective Communication is an Art

  1. Mary,

    Excellent post. You saw more than I did and I appreciate your perspective. I agree with your statement following your Dr. Stolovich comment regarding the usefulness of written communication. Personally, when a face-to-face meeting involves a tasking, I follow up with my team member (whether I’ve been tasked, or been the tasker) to ensure that everything is captured – in a way the email communication becomes part of the project’s action plan. I don’t know if you use Microsoft Outlook, but I use it as another tracking method. On critical taskers, I will use the read receipt function to track that my teammate has read the email.

    Again, thank you for your blog and looking at the activity from a unique perspective.


  2. Mary,

    You have brought up a point that I had not considered, accountability. I have posted in my blog that the face-to-face communication was most effective because it was friendly and I would have a chance to voice my questions and concerns. On a very personal note, my father always says that its easier to lie to someone on the phone than it is in person. Face-to-face communication can indeed cause a greater degree of commitment. However, its also very important to document the results of the conversation. That way we can keep everyone honest. Good post as usual!


  3. Hi Mary, I love the message and design of your blog!
    I agree with Tim and Jimmy- this is a good post. I didn’t think about the accountability factor either with the voicemail and email. In my past position with state government when we sent emails we could view whether or not the email we sent was opened. A follow-up email in our system would like this: “Original request for ABCD file sent 7/19/2014 at 7:30 am and viewed by T. Jones on 7/19/14 at 3:24 pm-please send the file for ABCD as requested by 5:00 pm, 7/20/14”. If it was late we might see “!!!” or “???”. Not the most friendly or cordial way to communicate but that was the usual tone of emails. We rarely left voicemails (probably because of the effectiveness of the tracking in our email system). For this scenario, I do think that face to face communication was the most personable and it did place Jane at a greater advantage seeing Mark face to face, where she could refine the message and get definite times for submission.


  4. I definitely agree with time here, you saw more that I did. I like that you pointed out that, “I believe the point of this exercise is not to indicate that a face-to-face communication is the only way to go; we’d never get anything done if that were the case. I think the point is to understand when to use each form to its most valuable effect. ” This was a great insight. Thanks for your wonderful and insightful perspective as always!


  5. Hi, Mary-
    You bring up a good point about the requirement for an immediate response when dealing with someone face-to-face. This could also be accomplished by a live phone call. I agree that vocal inflection goes a long way in helping to communicate a message effectively. Thanks for your post!

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