Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More on Communications

I've been thinking about communication again. Or more specifically about what makes effective communication. I remember from all my training that communication comes in two parts, the message given and the message received. Both parts are important for the message to be effective. There have been a few events recently that reinforced the duality of communications for me.

First, I got back a couple papers from different classes. The first paper was a 7-page introduction on the importance of local food systems as a tool to help combat the many problems created by industrialized agriculture (not Coast Guard-related, I know, but something I'm really interested in). I was nervous about it. I thought I had turned in a piece of crap. I felt like it was rushed, that I really didn't have a clear goal and that I was just scatter-shotting, hoping I got something right. I could have done better with it.

I got an A-. Definitely not the disaster I was expecting. Breathe huge sigh of relief! Sure, it wasn't an A+, but it wasn't a C+ either. The professor's comments: "In the next installments I want to see more sense of [prioritization]. This is well-informed and well-written but the agenda is massive." (Well-written, really? Yay...but I think he was merely impressed that I had proof-read.)

So he totally caught me out that I wasn't sure what I was really writing about. I didn't mean to communicate that, but it apparently came through loud and clear.

The second paper, for the other class, was a 3-page paper on inherently governmental functions. I felt a little better about this one, but wasn't sure if I was really addressing the professor's question. She wanted an analysis of inherently governmental functions, including a comparison between the current and previous administrations' approach and how President Obama's renewed emphasis on inherently governmental functions might be affected by new austerity measures, particularly in DOD. I went off on a tangent of why it is necessary to consider particular governmental functions inherently governmental.

I got an A. But there were *no comments* whatsoever from this professor on the paper. Just the pencil-scribbled "A" at the top of the page...and nothing else! Not very helpful.

Second event: multiple occasions of confusion with a professor's syllabus. She apparently mentioned the first day of class that a group project also required a 3-page analytic paper, but it wasn't on the syllabus. So we turned it in late. And then, another reading assignment was so poorly explained in the syllabus that I didn't even know that I needed to do anything for it. Again, she said she mentioned it the first day of class (which I don't remember), but had not offered a reminder or further explanation.

Now, I know I will complain about anything I can...I'll complain about being treated like a kindergartner and in the next breath complain about being treated like I'm geriatric. I know there's a certain amount of autonomy and self-responsibility incumbent upon graduate students. But I'm NOT a freaking mind-reader!

Note to self: ensure your message is received, even if it requires multiple reminders.

A further irony...the class is a leadership and management class. Maybe she's using reverse psychology on us to teach us about effective communication.

And last, I sent what I thought was a sweet note to a friend expressing appreciation for a particular quality of our recent communications. I contrasted our on-going dialogue with the hectic and disruptive nature of ship-board communications (middle of the night phone calls, sometimes nothing, sometimes critical). What I didn't realize was the potential for him to receive the message that I was calling him boring. *NOT* what I meant!

And the message that he sent back...nothing. Silence on the line. Whoops, I guess he's pissed that I suggested he was dull. Which I didn't! But, in this case, it's all about the message that was received, not the message that was sent.

So I don't really have a summary conclusion about communications. Just further cogitation on the subject.

1 comment:

Azulao said...

Well, I confess: I didn't remind my students about the reading assignment for tomorrow until today. But, unlike a 3-page analytical group paper, it was just a National Geographic article or I can't feel but so bad. AND it's been up on Blackboard for 2 weeks so if they have done their other homework, they know about it. I TRY to remember to remind them, but this time I didn't.

Um, no, your professor is not using reverse psychology, he/she is just a sloppy teacher.

Sorry about the guy. But if his fragile ego can't tell the difference between honest appreciation and being called boring...