Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blogpost 7 - Reflections

Having reviewed my first post, I realise that I have new insights to add on, now that I have gone through the process of improving my communication skills.

Three months of learning about professional communication has been an eventful albeit uptight learning journey. This module is relatively low on textbook or written content but can offer one a steep learning curve on soft skills.

Firstly, I found out that good communication skills alone are insufficient in professional communication. It should come with wise and effective decision making skills. The combination of both will probably yield the best result in professional communication in a workplace or in school. Good decision-making skills facilitates good communication because when a decision is made to do something, one will have a clear focus of what is to be done, so that a clear and logical description of what is to be done can be effectively relayed to other parties. Basically, a confused person, who does not know where he is headed towards, will not be able to find his direction, let alone lead others.

Secondly, I have come to appreciate face-to-face meetings with my project group mates; because I felt that completing the project together in the computer laboratory was the most efficient way of finishing our tasks. I am glad to have time-conscious group mates who make an effort to meet up despite pressing Final Year Project (FYP) deadlines. Moreover, during meet-ups, ideas can be exchanged more fluently and quickly, and the mood of discussion can be adjusted accordingly to facial expressions, body language and tones. For example, if you sense urgency in someone’s manners, you should quickly aid your friend in the task he is doing or change your tone to calm him down. Meetings also reduce misunderstandings that can take place during text message or email exchanges, which are more likely to be short and curt, thus are insufficient to fully express one’s ideas or concerns.

Thirdly, I realised that different expectations of a project can result in conflict and inefficiency. Due to our different priorities, my group mates and I have different expectations of the project. In fact, there was constantly a tug-of-war within me on whether to delegate workload fairly without consideration for the FYPs my 2 other group mates were doing. Fortunately, effective communication with my group mates by expressing my feelings and concerns definitely helped to straighten things out. Eventually, we all had to make sacrifices, be it family time or FYP time to complete our project.

Likewise, even though work places do emphasize on a common goal or motto, it is not possible to impose the company’s values on all employees. Some will put their families as top priority while some will put career as their top priority, so how do people of different priorities work together? Maybe the boss of a particular company will have the foresight to allocate important projects to only career-driven employees, if not, a lot of effective communication will be needed.

Fourthly, all the letter writing skills picked up from this module will be very useful. I can apply them to emails and letters to my professors, corporate companies when applying for jobs and internships and organisations when doing a project. There are many minute details in the letter format which I failed to notice prior to taking this module, for example the alignment of the content and the punctuations.

Lastly, I have never felt that it was a burden to participate in this class, because there’s always subjectivity in the content and no definite answers to how professional communication can be carried out. Therefore, classes were enjoyable, especially with interesting and spontaneous inputs from my fellow classmates that are encouraged by an approachable teacher. In fact, I was often surprised by the various insights about cross-cultural communication shared by my classmates. As a result, their opinions have broadened my view of things.

I do appreciate these rare opportunities of learning from the experiences that others have to offer. Thank you for reading about my experiences too!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I am Ethel Wong, a second year Chemistry undergraduate from the National University of Singapore. My passion for chemistry lies in the development of drugs and molecular gastronomy. I intend to further my studies overseas in patent law that will allow me to patent processes and products I have learnt to appreciate through Chemistry in NUS.

In 2007, I worked for Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore as a tax officer to manage customers’ queries and advise them on tax matters. I worked during the peak tax-filing period, where there was a high influx of taxpayers’ complains, queries and demands to be handled. This job required one to be tactful when speaking to the taxpayers, and fast and analytical thinking in solving the problems.

Prior to entering university, I have been a committed and talented athlete, who represented Raffles Girls' Secondary and Raffles Junior College in track and field competitions at national level. I continue to strive in sports at tertiary level in inter-faculty and inter-hall games. In fact, I participate in new sports outside my comfort zone.

In 2006, I was privileged to be appointed secretary and treasurer of my college's track and field team, which won the female championship at the national track and field meet that eventful year.

In addition, I organised a community involvement programme in collaboration with the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) for the team in 2006. I led the team for half a year in the research and compilation of information for a booklet to raise awareness of SDSC and the achievements of the disabled athletes.

Currently, I am still contributing to the community by serving as a Sunday school teacher in church. Preparation for the week’s lesson, taking charge of the 2-hour programme and managing the children are my responsibilities

Sunday, March 15, 2009

#5 Want to take a degree in mass communication?

It is often said that a pen is mightier than a sword. It is undeniable that mass communication in the form of books, magazines or newspapers has influenced the minds and thus actions of many. Hence, the clout that the pen wields warrants it to be a mightier weapon than a sword, which is sharp enough to pierce into the hearts and minds of people.

In fact, I think, a charismatic speaker with a pen in his hand is mightier than a light saber you find in Star Wars, a weapon that is more powerful than an ordinary sword. Quite recently, I was reminded of the power of mass communication, especially undertaken by an eloquent and passionate person with a flair for words, one like US president Barack Obama. I was moved by his idealistic optimism and passion for change to aid the people. Being idealistic may entail being unrealistic, but I felt that his idealistic optimism is refreshing, something different from our very own straitlaced, hard-talking politicians. Our local political election scene often displays a buffet of goodies or showcases a series of misfortunes that may befall the society. Once again, the difference in the way politicians in various countries run for election can be accounted for by the difference in culture. Sorry for the slight digression, but let us now return to my favourite mass communication professional, Obama.

Obama delivered promising hope, which is not simply motivating but convincing. I bought his promise, and so did millions of other people around the world. What about you? Many people have not seen concrete evidence of his capabilities in managing the nation’s economic, social and political problems but they believed. This belief was built up from months of watching and listening to Obama. His warm smile, sincere and amiable interaction with the grassroot leaders, civilians and opponents, his good track record and fantastic speeches laced with appropriate body language and intonations have contributed to an excellent first impression.

Honestly, this is my first time taking a closer look at US politics. My interest was the result of Obama’s gravitating charisma and fine speeches. Indeed, Obama holds a weapon that is mightier than a light saber in his hand.

I have made several controversial points that you (student, teacher or politician) may disagree with. For example, do you agree with my analogy? Do you think that mass communication by politicians in Singapore can be improved?

Friday, February 27, 2009

#4 Evaluating Intercultural behaviour

I will be talking about an intercultural scenario that occurred in the movie, Japanese Story

Please watch the link above for a clearer picture. I can assure you that this well-filmed clip is thought-provoking. You may want to watch the entire movie too, like me. If you do own a VCD/DVD or download of this movie and don’t mind lending it to me, I will be very grateful=).

In this video, you will first see a flushed-face Japanese man standing beside his luggage. After pacing around for a while, he finally leaned against his luggage, probably out of exhaustion for having to stand rigidly in a suit under the hot sun. Apparently, his host, Sandy was late. Being punctual is highly important in Japan, as it indicates respect for the other party.

When his host finally arrived, he went back on his feet with his back straight, portraying a graceful and respectful figure. He allowed his host to approach him and start the conversation before offering his business card politely. In the Japanese business etiquette, exchanging business cards is de rigueur in formal introductions. You should extend your card to the other person with both hands and with the card positioned in the right side up to him (upside down to you). You should receive cards with both hands too. Be sure to look at the card and not just pocket it. Never put it in your pants pocket and sit on it in front of the guest, which is, unfortunately, what Sandy did in the clip.

Also, Sandy placed her hands on her hips while speaking to her guest, which is a sign of anger or discontentment in most cultures. In addition to the hands-on-hip gesture, she made other huge body gestures, which may seem unfeminine to Hiromitsu. Also, it was rude of her to flick Hiromitsu’s name card on her hands after receiving the name card from him.

As the more expressive party of the 2, Sandy was obviously offended that Hiromitsu took no initiative to load his luggage into her jeep. His lack of sensitivity towards women is born of Japanese male chauvinism, a norm in the Japanese society. There is no “ladies first” custom in Japan.

Hiromitsu then went into the back seat, clearly mistaking Sandy for his chauffer. I felt that he could have been less assuming and spoke more to Sandy to clarify the situation.

In the car, Sandy tried to hold a casual conversation with Hiromitsu. She was making an effort to entertain the guest and reduce the tension that was built up earlier by a poor first impression of each other. On the contrary, Hiromitsu seemed reluctant to chat with her. I found out that Japanese use silence as a form of communication as much as speaking. Sandy’s question “Is it hot enough for you?” was met with a direct “yes” from Hiromitsu. Japanese style of conversation is very direct, without any irony or sarcasm. In contrast, Sandy’s question borders on a playful context and gives room for a creative reply. This cue was not taken up by Hiromitsu though. He was reticent, which did not go well with the more outgoing and expressive nature of Australians.

Moreover, Japanese think that multi-tasking is rude when one is in a conversation. Thus when Sandy spoke, he immediately turned his attention to her and lowered his camera.

In addtion to all the cultural taboos she had committed against the Japanese, Sandy's brusque and unfeminine body language, together with her talkative nature seemed to have repulsed Hiromitsu. Concurrently, Sandy is put off by Hiromitsu’s reticent, uptight and ungentlemanly behavior. Both parties seemed ignorant of each other's culture. Their inflexibility to adjust to the situation and understand each other may be due to pride.

There is no definite right or wrong when it comes to intercultural communication because either party will be acting a manner that he has been brought up to recognize as the most polite or appropriate way to behave. The question is which cultural milieu should you adopt in a cross-cultural meeting? I always believe that I should adopt the etiquettes and practice of a nation that I am visiting. If I am hosting in my country, I will still learn the cultural and social etiquettes that my guests practice. However, I will gradually and patiently introduce them to my nation’s way of doing things.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

#3 blog post - Letter Critique

Please open the letter in another tab (right click to find that option) so that you can read the words. Sorry for the inconvenience caused. Do suggest a better way of uploading the letter to make it larger. Thank you!
This letter compliments Novation Business School for bringing into Singapore three sports courses. This letter is very courteous as there are no criticisms at all and the tone is very amiable and respectful.
It is also grammatically correct. I believe that the facts such as the names of the courses are accurate too. In fact, there are few facts in this letter as it is mainly filled with the writer’s opinions, admiration and well wishes for Novation Business School.
The letter is well-structured with short paragraphs and coherent sentences that make comprehension easy. For instance, the first paragraph introduces Novation Business School and the sports courses they offer. Subsequently, the writer speaks of the appropriateness and benefits of these courses. Then he strongly recommends the courses. Finally, he compliments Novation business School.
All these information were given in a concise manner. Each paragraph conveys a point within a sentence or 2. Despite the short length of the letter, the writer seems sincere.
It seems that the writer values the availability of these courses and knows the courses well when he listed the names of the three courses offered by the business school. This fulfils concreteness of the information given in the letter, as the names of the courses ascertain their availability.
I can find almost no fault in the letter except in the second paragraph, where the writer could have given an example on how the courses complement the sports club and its athletes and officials. There is a small language error in the second paragraph. Instead of “to an ever higher level,” it probably should have been “to an even higher level.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

#2 Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

After a series of interviews with the nominees, a discussion among the teachers-in-charge and the captains was held. Decisions were eventually made. The male and the female captains were the news bearer of the newly elected executive committee for the track and field team the following year. The decisions were tough to make as there was no particularly outspoken person with prominent leadership skills. Also, the team was segregated into cliques with no significant individuals who can blend in with all the groups well.

The announcement of the newly-elected captains, secretary and treasurer created a stir among the members. The present executive committee then came to discover the issue that was fuelling the unrest.

Apparently, the newly-elected treasurer, Diane was unhappy with the newly-elected captain, Jan, due to Diane’s unpleasant working experience with Jan in the past. Moreover, Diane disliked the way Jan carried herself partly because she saw Jan as a ‘bootlicker’ and one who talks more than she works. She felt that she could not work under a person she had no respect and liking for. This immense discontentment could not be concealed. Diane started to share her negative opinions about Jan with the team members; meanwhile she fished around for feedback about Jan as Captain. Soon enough, she approached the teacher-in-charge about her disapproval of Jan as the new captain supported by similar feedback she claimed was given to her by some team members.

Jan, on the other hand, heard these criticisms. As a result, she was hurt and upset. She hardly retaliated, or maybe she did not know how she should respond. Both Jan and Diane simply gave each other the cold shoulder when they happen to meet. The team members could sense the tension brewing between them, which was unhealthy for team morale.

The problem was that slander against the new captain was spread in the team. The credibility of the reasons behind Diane’s disapproval of the new captain was not the main issue. Diane had not only disrespected the new captain and undermined the authority of the present captains and teachers-in-charge, but also sowed discord within the team. Which party (the present executive committee, new executive committee or Jan) should step out to solve the problem? How should each party deal with this conflict?

Extra: This conflict was resolved but more arose in the near future, within the newly-elected ex-committee. Maybe you will want to think of solutions that can reduce future misunderstandings as well =)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

#1 Why is effective communication skills important to me?

I have always looked up to people with excellent interpersonal skills. Their ability to relate to others and make others feel good is intriguing. Eventually, I figured that maybe effective communication is an aspect of good interpersonal skills, especially if one lacks natural charisma and a sense of humour.

Effective communication skills help us to relay messages efficiently and appropriately, reducing misunderstandings. Subsequently, these skills will aid in creating a productive and conducive environment for work and play. Consequently, great rapport with friends, family, colleagues, subordinate and superiors can be built with a magical touch of sincerity and humour to our effective communication skills.

In a campus environment, it is always beneficial to have a wide network of friends, whom I can rely on. I am well aware of my limitations because I can neither do projects alone, nor overcome obstacles all by myself. Therefore, I need effective communication skills to create a common understanding with other students in order to sustain or forge friendships.

Being a practical Singaporean, I should love to know the secrets behind the appropriate method of communication with my superiors. There have been many instances when I feel inadequate in my interaction with society's elite or people of senior status. The root of this inadequacy may be more of a mindset issue than a communication problem. Nevertheless, learning valuable communication skills will aid me in my paper chase, as well as my future working career . For example, how to effectively communicate to my professors, so that they will willingly compose testimonials or recommendations I seek. In addition, the fruit of effective communication, a harmonious working environment will enhance my emotional and physical health. As a result, my productivity will increase. Hence, clarity, tactfulness and positive body language in communication with superiors are significant to me.

I have read about the 7Cs in the textbook. It’s definitely easier to read about these skills than to practise them. Since effective communication skills are of great importance, my goal for this module is to be proficient in the 7Cs through verbal and written form.