Friday, April 10, 2009

Final Reflection

After the course on ES2007S Professional Communication, it further highlights the importance of effective communication and reiterates my belief that "Communication is platinum". No doubt, I learnt to write better and reduce any barrier to improve my communication with others. Although it is difficult to master the ability to communicate effectively, ES2007S has thought me to avoid mistakes that I should not make in future.

Through the course, I learnt how to write minutes, business letter, resume, and cover letter (p.s. not forgetting how to criticise on poor writing skills). These skills will definitely be useful in time to come.

Other than the communication skills that I learnt in class, the group project occupied the other major fraction of the module. My group project was based on the analysis of the emotional wellbeing of NUS undergraduates and the help available for those who are in need. Although the timeline for the project was hectic, the experience was rewarding. Besides having the opportunity to interview Senior Clinical Psychologist from University Health Centre (UHC), I also get to understand more about the stressful environment that NUS undergraduates face and the barriers that UHC has to overcome to widen its reach. I am also glad to have good team mates like Kalene and Jane, who are both understanding and efficient in generating the report and presentation. Knowing that it was difficult to meet the deadlines but everyone has managed to, three cheers for everybody!

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone for providing me with the wonderful experience even though it's an 8am class! Not forgetting our tutor, Christine, for imparting us with the knowledge to excel in our communication skills.

Nevertheless, good luck for your coming exams and hope to see you guys in school!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Biodata

My name is YuanYuan and I am currently a third year Life Sciences undergraduate studying in National University of Singapore (NUS). I will be graduating in May 2010 with a Degree in Bachelor of Science (Honours), with concentration in Biomedical Sciences. During my course of study in NUS, the modules have prepared me well in my theory and laboratory skills so that I am competent to enter the biomedical industry.

Besides the academics, I had also take part in organizing the Science Orientation Camp (SCAMP) for the freshman from the Faculty of Science, and actively participated in 'Space' under the Science Club. The co-curriculum activities had encouraged the development of my leadership skills and allowed me to learn how to manage time between my studies and the co-curriculum activities.

On top of that, I had an internship experience in Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in 2008. I was attached to a Senior Research Scientist and worked under my mentor for a research project. The past internship experience had allowed me to have a glimpse of how research work is done in real life, and I learnt to use sophisticated laboratory instruments. In addition, I had also picked up cell culturing skills and presentation skills. Most importantly, I learnt to be independent and plan my experiment in advance.

Prior to my university education, I was from Nanyang Junior College where I studied Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry. As such, my interest in Biology has led me to pursue Life Sciences in NUS. Other than the main curriculum, I was actively involved in the Guzheng Ensemble and took part in the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) and performed in various occasions outside school. I had also taken part in other SYFs during my secondary school days when I represent the school's Wind Orchestra. As a sectional leader of the Wind Orchestra, I learnt to coordinate, communicate, and motivate my team members. Clearly, a leader should also be responsible and capable of setting a common goal for the team.

On the whole, I hope that the valuable experiences and skills that I have learnt so far can be useful in my future job search. However, I would also like to see and learn more whenever possible.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Inter-Gender Communication

*Click on the picture to enlarge*

I came across this comic published by the Los Angeles Times over the internet. It was pretty interesting to see how different genders decipher messages differently and I thought that inter-gender communication would be an interesting topic for discussion.

No doubt, men and women vary significantly in their verbal communication, body language, and how they listen to others. They often pick up different cues in the conversations, and interpret the meaning of the message differently from what the speaker intends to convey. Even in the course text, it was stated that "women often hear the feelings, while men hear the contents and facts" (Chew et al, 2006).

Clearly, the differences in receiving and processing the information between men and women can create potential conflicts when they communicate with each other. Women usually pick on the details of the message and process information collectively. In other words, women take a step further by relating details of this message to the information from another message. On the other hand, men read messages more independently. Other than picking on the details of the message, they look at the general content of the message.

Since men and women were born to be different and they have distinct mindsets and behaviours, don't you think that inter-gender communication can also be classified as a form of intercultural communication since both involves different mindsets and behaviours?

Chew M.L., Lee K.C. (2006). The Science of Effective Communication - Developing Active Listening. The Science of Effective Communication in the Workplace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Evaluating Intercultural Behaviour

Sometime back, I attended a lecture on Marketing and the lecturer mentioned a really interesting situation on cross cultural advertising. The story goes like this:

An outdoor advertising campaign on laundry detergent was launched in some Middle Eastern country because the company wished to increase the sales of the detergent in that area. The advertisement came in three parts, all placed side by side outside a building.

On the left, the giant poster showed a dirty piece of clothing. In the centre, another poster showed the same dirty piece of clothing was dipped into a pail of water with the company’s laundry detergent. On the right, the other poster showed a clean piece of clothing after taking out from the pail. The ad was designed such that it was very simple and easy to understand.

However after a month, the sales of the company dropped even further. Feeling puzzled, the advertising department went to survey the public why they did not choose to buy their detergent. After getting the public' s feedback, the company realized that the people of that country read the posters from right to left instead. Hence, they interpret the detergent as "making their clothes dirty" instead of "making their clothes cleaner". After changing the posters the other way round, the sales of the detergent increases.

Although this example sounds a bit extreme, it still informed us about the importance of cultural awareness due to the differences in cultural behaviour. We might assume that basic communication and norms, like the direction of reading text, should be same throughout the world. However, some cultural contexts are just different from what we think.

Hence, understanding intercultural behaviour is relatively important if you were to manage business in other countries. Even giving personal gifts might be seen as a bribe in certain countries but not in others. Therefore, we have to overcome prejudice, stereotyping and ethnocentrism so that we can become better intercultural communicators!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Business Correspondence Critique

Before I begin my actual post, Happy Valentine's Day to all!!

Previously, I had a really bad experience in one of the Public Libraries, so I filed a complaint email to the Management Board. After a week or two, I received an email reply from the Manager of the Library (names of the Library and the Manager have been changed to safeguard their privacy).

Dear YuanYuan

Thank you for your email of 25 Nov 08.

First and foremost, please accept our sincere apologies for the discomfort you felt during your visits to our library. It is definitely our aim to ensure that the library remains as a place where you can enjoy some quality time with us amidst a pleasant and comfortable ambience.

The issue of noise in the Library is a concern that we share with you. We seek your understanding that with thousands of visitors daily increasing, especially during the period of the Library's recent reopening, close to ten thousands of visitors had visited the XX Public Library daily, our staff face a daunting and difficult task trying to maintain calm and quiet in the libraries. The measures we have implemented include posters on silence in the library as well as our staff make regular rounds in the library to advise noisy, loud and inconsiderate customers to lower their voices and to stop activities that cause disturbance to others. User education sessions are conducted for new members, especially children and students, to educate them on proper manners and library etiquette. In addition, announcements are made at regular intervals to advise customers to refrain from creating noise or inconveniencing others.

We will continue to stress and remind our staff to be vigilant and step up patrolling /monitoring of activities, especially on the weekends so as to maintain a conducive environment for all our library customers.

Once again, thank you for your valuable feedback and we look forward to your continued support of our library services.

for Manager
XX Public Library

Basically, I feel that this email has fulfilled some of the 7Cs.

First of all, the element of 'Courtesy' was present in the letter. It showed concern for the reader and demonstrated a clear understanding of the problem that I faced (which was the library being too noisy). The tone was appropriate and the Manager showed sincere apologies at the beginning of the email, and her gratitude towards the end.

I think the email was pretty coherent and concise in explaining the measures that the Library had taken to address the issue. However, I believe that both can be improved further. The email was fairly concrete as the measures mentioned in the email were already in placed. The problems, current measures and future actions were stated clearly in this email. Thus, the email is complete as adequate information was provided and it answered my concerns.

However, the biggest problem that I see in this email was 'Correctness' and 'Clarity'. These problems are particularly prominent in the third paragraph of the email, where the Manager was trying to describe the concern and current actions taken towards reducing the noise level in the library. The grammar and sentence structures can be improved further so that there is more clarity and fluency. For example, the sentence in orange could be rewrite as "With the increasing number of visitors visiting the library, we would like to seek your understanding especially during the period of our recent opening. As such, our staff was also faced with a daunting and difficult task to maintain calmness and quietness in the library".

After reading the email, how do you think it should be improved?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

After my 'O' level exams, I picked up an admin job before entering Junior College. I was only a temp staff back then and I sat at the edge of the office together with other temp staffs of the same department. We were a bunch of young girls while the rest of the office staffs were much older. The conflict arose when the perm staffs who sat near us (also known as the "buyers"), were annoyed by the little things that we did.

During work, we were particularly busy. As such, we packed food back to the office to eat and work most of the times. This created some unhappiness in the buyers who complained to the Head of our department. The reason that the buyers gave was that "the smell of the food made them unable to concentrate on their work when some of them did not have time to go for lunch". So, we were banned from bringing food into the office.

Subsequently, another ridiculous event happened. There was a dinner party held for the perm staffs and they were given half day off. Coincidentally, one of the temp staffs' birthday fell on that day, and we bought a cake to celebrate for her during tea break when most of the perm staffs had left.

Despite knowing the presence of a few staffs that had not left for the event, we still sang a birthday song in the office (at a moderate voice level). To our surprise, one of the buyers who had not left complained to the Human Resource (HR) department the next day. The issue escalated when the HR department questioned our Head of department and we were scolded for the reason that "we were creating chaos in the office". As we did not have any strong sense of unjust, the conflict was sort of a "silent" one. What made us irritated was that the buyers did not talk to us up-front but did things discretely behind our backs. They also like to pick on small mistakes such that we had to do things carefully since then.

This brings me to a question of why some people could not be more accommodating with small issues like these. Was it because we were not abiding to the office etiquettes? Or was there a difference in mindsets between different generations? Or was it the differences in ranks that allowed them to exercise their authoritativeness recklessly?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Effective Communication Skills

Looking at the comic above, different people have different interpretations of what the others want to convey. This is also true in the workplace today. Whether it is verbal or non-verbal communications, the main aim is to bring your message across correctly. Hence, it is vital to develop effective communication skills to avoid misunderstandings.

Today, communication in the workplace is more than just “talk”. In a constantly evolving working environment, things can become increasingly complicated. Sources of tension and friction can even arise from basic interactions with colleagues or team-mates.

This reminds me of my mother who, at times, came home complaining about how unhappy she was at work. Most of the misunderstandings arose from plain, normal conversations of her with her colleagues. These misunderstandings resulted in some negativity and could possibly hinder their productivity. The moral of the story that she told me was to “talk when necessary”.

Although some people may agree that “Silence is Gold”, and silence can save them from disputes, think again. Communication is not just about verbal but it involves non-verbal messages as well. E-mails, reports, letters, or even body languages are also forms of communication.

So, I believe that “Communication is Platinum”. It can be a way to build relationships with fellow colleagues and to be a good team player. I can also deliver my ideas more effectively to my team-mates and bosses. More importantly, I need effective communication skills to pass my job interview.

Since human beings were given the ability to think and speak, why not make good use of both to set you at the advantage of effective communication!