Final Reflections

 

I must confess, getting through this module was by no means an easy feat for me, which was contrary to what I initially thought this module was: easy. The research report, survey, resume write up and presentation that we had to churn out week after week, coupled with the ongoing FYP from hell, nearly got me on the brink of insanity.

But I would like to thank Brad for making this journey so much more bearable with his amazing openness to communicate with students like us without barriers, which is quite a rare sight in school systems in Singapore since many lecturers seem aloof and do not appear to have time to speak to students.

During the past 13 weeks, I have learnt so much more about the art of effective communication from Brad rather than from theories in the textbook. His friendly non verbal communication cues have encouraged members of the class to voice out and share their thoughts on various subject matters, instead of practising restraint due to the lack of self-confidence. He also demonstrated the importance of active listening in effective communication by hearing out our views and not dismissing them as trivial or stupid and also any socio-cultural barriers that may exist between us(if any), do not seem very apparent. Also, through his wealth of experience in Japan, Russia, other parts of Asia, I became more aware of the different social customs in different social contexts, which is important in fostering intercultural communication.

I also had the opportunity to learn to communicate effectively as a group in our research project assignment. I learnt that no man is an island and that it is important to work as a group rather than as an individual in order to succeed, even though how highly or capable you think yourself to be. Being able to communicate effectively as a group is paramount as misunderstandings and miscommunication that entail not only act as a barrier to the progression of the project, but also it may affect interpersonal relationships with group-mates.

There are much more about communication which I have learnt, but I guess I still have a long way to go before I can say for myself that I have mastered the fine art of effective communication. The art of communication is definitely a skill that needs to be honed even after we leave the classroom.

Intercultural Conflict Resolution Styles

 Since the previous post was on intercultural conflict, it’ll be interesting to know the different ways different people tackle such a conflict. Mitchell Hammer proposed an intercultural conflict style model based on two core dimensions: Direct vs. Indirect approaches to dealing with disagreements and Emotionally Expressive vs. Emotionally Restrained patterns for dealing with the affective dimension of conflict interaction. He believes that people should understand and recognise that there are differences in conflict styles across cultural communities,  and with that awareness learn how to understand each other and resolve conflicts.

 intercultural-conflict-model1

 

The Discussion style uses a verbally direct path. You say what you mean and mean what you say. When talking about the disagreement, you tend not to throw in your own personal feelings in the discussion. Examples of cultures that typically use Discussion Style of communication are U.S. White American and Northern European cultures.

The second style is the Engagement style. This style is confrontational and verbally direct using strong verbal and non verbal communication. In the engagement style, sincerity is judged by the intensity with which each party conveys emotion. Examples of this style are Russian and Greek cultures.


The next style is the accommodation style which
emphasizes ambiguity in language use in order to help ensure that a conflict does not “get out of control.” Maintaining emotional calm and reserve is essential to this style for enabling interpersonal harmony to counter relationally damaging disagreements among the parties. Japanese and Southeast Asian cultures use the accommodation style.

 The last style is the dynamic style which uses indirect language—often communicated through third party intermediaries—with more emotion shown during conflict. The credibility of each party in the dispute is gauged by how emotionally expressive and intense they are. This style is found in Arab culture.

After examining all this various communication styles, I believe that “accommodation style” and the “discussion style” are the best of the styles? (And no disrespect to the other cultures that use the other styles). I firmly believe that communication is best when it is based on discussion, and not on verbal and emotional attacks which clearly blurs communication lines. The one that stuck out to me the most was the dramatic style used by Arab cultures. It seemed to me that this radical form of communication is also adopted in their actions. This can be seen in the terrorist groups who are trying to make change by blowing themselves up. Of course they are not a direct representation of the Middle East but the drive must come from somewhere in the culture. Another thing that came to my mind was the United Nations.  Since the United Nations consists of many nations, they all have to speak ‘the same language’ to come to a resolution. But if there are four different styles of dealing with conflict, would it then mean that the United Nations will never get anywhere in their decision making?

Blogpost 4# Intercultural Conflict

Are Chinese Singaporeans so different from the PRC(People’s Republic of China) counterparts so much so that these differences can culminate into an intercultural conflict that is apparent almost everywhere(school, work place, etc)? There has been a recent increase in the number of PRCs coming  into Singapore and while this is good for nation renewal, the issue of assimilating them into the Singapore society has always been an issue, as far as I know. It is funny how both groups are of the same ethnicity, speak the same language and whose ancestors originate from the same country, however PRCs are still marginalised in Singapore, by their own race (gasp).

In school, PRCs are stereotyped by Singaporean Chinese as boorish people with a weird sense of fashion and as muggers who have no life besides studying and hence are often deemed as social outcasts. The sight of local Chinese students integrating with their fellow PRC students is rarely seen, and if relationships do exist between both groups, they are often based on superficial reasons. For example, local Chinese may want to pair up with PRCs for project work as they believe that PRCs are studious and hence will increase the chance of them getting an A grade. At the same time, Singaporean Chinese students often feel intimidated by the fellow PRCs who often top the class in Maths and Economics and hence may threaten their positions in the crème de la crème of Singapore.

Another example is the assimilation of the PRC Chinese into the local culture, where due to local TV dramatization, has resulted in the local Chinese looking at PRC women with disdain and disrespect. They often look at them as women who are in search of a rich husband to marry and settle down so that they can have a better life compared to their hometowns or as social escorts and prostitutes, who want to earn quick money.

This conflict between the two groups may be due to differences in values, culture and habits. When people from different cultures collide, they tend to be ethnocentric and see their cultures and values as “right” and do not try to see the other’s point of view.  Just like how local Singaporeans do not bother forming bonds with PRCs and getting to understand them and their culture better, instead they choose to see themselves as “different” and “superior” to the PRC counterparts.  But is it too simplistic to think that this conflict is solely based on intercultural differences?

Email mistakes that make you look Bad

This email came just in the nick of time before I start to pull hair out of my head in frustration, simply because I was not able to find any email that was worthy of criticism. The email is as follows:

From: MY<aaa@ppp.edu.sg>
Date: 2009/2/16
Subject: WEAR YOUR SHOES
To:tamsy05@gmail.com

Dear All

please make sure your wear covered shoes tomorrow, we have some visitor from YY international.  if you don’t, i will throw you out of the lab. thanks

MY

 

Although I have to applaud the sender for her conciseness and clarity shown in the email, but I would like to point out a few mistakes.

Violation #1: Broken Grammar

The sentences are not capitalized as the first word in each sentence begins with a small letter. In addition,  there is a lack of proper punctuation. She may want to run a spell checker to detect all these errors.

Violation#2: Negative Wording and Inappropriate Tone

The sender does not use a tactful approach in reminding the people in the lab to wear shoes, instead from her tone used, she seemed to be coercing them to do so. This does not seem right especially when emailing to people who are subordinate to you. But then again, she might be attempting to be humorous, which may fail, as the receiver in the email may not know that she’s trying to be funny.

Violation #3: Subject Field

She wrote the subject field in capital letters, which should be discouraged as she seemed as if she was shouting and commanding others to do what they were told by her. Instead, she may want to use asterisks or bold formatting to emphasize important words.

Violation #4: Absence of Signing off

Violation #5: Ambiguity of the word “tomorrow”

She should state the exact date following “tomorrow” to ensure that the receiver get the date right as some of them might check their emails late.

 

This is my suggestion on how this email can be improved:

Dear All,

Please do make sure that you wear covered shoes tomorrow, on the 17th February, as we are expecting visitors from YY International. I would appreciate your efforts in doing so.

Thank you for your kind understanding and cooperation in this matter.

Yours Sincerely,

MY

Blogpost 2# Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

Conflict is part and parcel of most interpersonal relationships. When people interact and form relationships, disagreements inevitably emerge, with both negative and positive consequences. Misunderstandings can arise because of different personal communication styles, particularly between men and women. Linguist Deborah Tannen notes that, for women, “talk creates intimacy, but men live in a hierarchical world, where talk maintains independence and status.”

A common problem that exists in a couple relationship is the failure to understand communication between opposite sexes. Imagine this scenario: Blair just had a rough day at work where she was reprimanded by her employer for not meeting up to his expectations in terms of work performance. She goes off to rant to her boyfriend Chuck hoping that he would lend her a listening ear, and express agreement and sympathy with her problems. However Chuck did not express any sympathy, instead dismissed her problem and claimed that she was taking her employer’s comments as a personal attack and that she should not make a mountain out of a molehill. As a result, Blair misunderstood Chuck and interprets what he said as an insult and retaliates in words or action. Chuck having meant no harm in the first place, now sees Blair’s reaction as an unprovoked attack and the situation quickly escalated into a full blown fight even though there was no real reason for a fight to begin in the first place.

How then should Blair and Chuck have reacted in this situation to avoid a conflict? What can they do to resolve the issue?

Perhaps, the reason why men and women misunderstand each other is that they see and hear things through different filters, and if we begin to realise it, we can begin to share with one other the distortions we experience, and thereby find our way to clarity. However, is mutual understanding the only key to bridging the gap between the sexes?

Blog Post #1: Importance of Effective Communication Skills

One of the most important skills that I believe would be beneficial to my life is effective communication skills. It is the secret to making friends, doing well in job interviews, avoid misunderstandings, being productive and improving my social life.  

Everyone knows how important effective communication is in our modern society and with it; it will get you to almost anywhere. To give a good presentation, going for job interviews, finding a good job in future, convincing my lecturer to give me a good grade on this assignment, all this are the more practical side of the benefits of good communication.

The less practical side of it, allows us to socialise better. It helps me to build bonds and friendship with people that could last a lifetime. Good communication allows me to know a person better through the way he speaks and whether we would have a common topic, reduces awkwardness as we each get to know each other better.  It also makes working with other people a lot easier and work will be done more effectively and efficiently.

It is difficult for anyone to go through life without knowing the importance of good communication and applying it to their daily lives. As I believe establishing such relationships with people will give me a wider social network, have more connections and better job opportunities and it will be one that I am able to rely on for almost everything in life.