Tuesday, May 25, 2010

the touchy-feely human parts of module 5

I love learning about the touchy-feely human bits of writing. Here are some interesting snippets from the module on corporate writing.

Senders bring their feelings, attitudes, expectations, past experience and values to any communication. These can be indicated by their tone, their response to questions and so on. This 'personal baggage' can colour the way they encode their message.
The text then goes on to say how if you don't like a person you receive an email from, it's easy to be offended by what they've written. On the other hand, you could get a rude, abrupt message from someone but don't get offended because you have a pre-existing relationship.

Learning point:
People will not be aware of what baggage you bring to the communication process unless you tell them.


Noise is what you call the things that distracts you from communicating smoothly. Could be anything - loud traffic, building construction, being interrupted by the person you are speaking to, language difficulties, emotions, headaches, etc. Basically, if it's distracting you from the flow of understanding, it's noise.

Learning point:
Noise colours the communication process and can cause it to break down entirely.
Body language

I learned a couple years ago that only 15% of our total communication is done in words. The other 85% is a mix of body language, tone of voice, facial expression and stuff like that. It's all the stuff you kinda have to feel your way through when communicating with people.

Learning point:
When you write, many of these cues are missing, so you have to choose your words very carefully. You want to ensure that there is no confusion about what you are saying.
It still trips me out a bit how some people sound like total dickheads via email, but they're really genuine and cool in person. Guess the 'being careful' thing can make a huge difference.


Despite body language communicating heaps more at once, it's not necessarily better to do everything in person. I get this quite a bit actually - sometimes people will come up for a face-to-face conversation, when a text chat or email would probably work smoother and faster.

This section of the course gives a couple paragraphs of examples, so I won't quote them here. But to give you an idea, the exercise lists a few types of communication (survey results, staff churn, deadline notices, policy announcements, meeting confirmation, etc.) and asks us to match them with the appropriate communication channels (email, newsletter, meeting in person, posters, reports, etc.).

I'd always taken that sort of thing for granted, but having to think about it now gives a bit of shape to the gut feelings. Like how you'd use a regular publication to talk about run-of-the-mill stuff, but it would be better to use surprise!methods for super exciting or time sensitive stuff.


Quick last one cos it's my bedtime...

Context: the shit that happens that might influence the way your message is understood. It's the vibe, basically. Before you communicate stuff, suss out how people are feeling.
For example, you may have good news about the tearoom refurbishment, but no one has seen your cheery email because they are still in shock at the retrenchments announced by the boss that morning.
I was shopping for a training course a couple years ago and found a "Communications for Women" course next to a plain "Communications" course. The only difference between the two that I could find was that the "for Women" course had a module on good timing. As in, how to be a bit more aware of your surroundings before opening your mouth.

Bit funny, but probably not inappropriate. Sometimes it does feel like the mental filters momentarily switch off as soon as things get a bit exciting. Maybe we're just hardwired with stronger blurt reflexes, or maybe we're socially conditioned differently to boys? Or maybe it's nothing at all and I'm just seeing things, but nonetheless, there was a tailored piece of learning for professional females.

The learning point from the Context section is basically to ask yourself a bunch of sensitivity questions about your audience before you reach out.

I am sleepy now, good night. x

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