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Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Chapter Seven
Conveying Verbal Messages
Chapter Overview
Communicating with others in such a manner that both parties’ (the sender and receiver)
needs are met is a complex skill. In this chapter we discuss the how-to’s of communicating
verbally (communicating non-verbally is covered in the chapter on listening). We discuss
what communication is, how communication occurs, types of communication channels
available, and the barriers to effective communication. We also discuss the concept of
communicating assertively and how to send messages effectively. The chapter begins with a
case and discussion questions and concludes with a series of exercises to aid the reader in
assessing and enhancing his or her skills.
Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, the student/reader will be able to:
 Improve the ability to send clear messages
 Reduce barriers associated with ineffective communication
 Determine which communication medium best serves varying situations
 Send messages that demonstrate the sender’s intention and ability to stand up for his or
her rights
 Get messages across in a way that doesn't cause defensiveness on the part of the receiver
Chapter Outline
What is Communication?
 Communication is the imparting, conveying, or exchange of ideas, knowledge,
information, and the like by means of mechanical or electronic speech, writing, or
signs. It is a process in which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create
shared understanding. To communicate effectively requires the use of a large array of
intrapersonal and interpersonal skills in processing, listening, observing, speaking,
questioning, analyzing, and evaluating. Communication facilitates collaboration and
cooperation. We communicate because we want something to happen or we want to
satisfy a need.
 The average knowledge worker spends about 75 percent of the time communicating.
The Communication Channel
 As we communicate to meet our needs and goals, those to whom our messages are
directed form perceptions about our competence.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Communication competence is achieved by choosing the most appropriate
communication channel and using knowledge and skill to communicate appropriately
and effectively. In communication, appropriateness involves observance of social
rules or norms. Effectiveness is achieved when the goals we set for the communication
interaction are fulfilled.
Communication channels/media differ in the ways they can overcome the constraints
of time and location, transmit nonverbal and social cues, and successfully pass on
ambiguous information. Communication over inappropriate channels runs a higher
risk of being ineffective.
Channels/media can be rich or lean, mediated or unmediated, and they can have
varying degrees of social presence.
o Richness: Media richness reflects the extent to which the communication can
make issues less ambiguous, bridge different frames of reference, provide cues,
and allow for immediate feedback. Messages should be communicated on
channels with appropriate richness capacity. Equivocal messages call for a rich
media choice high in immediate feedback (e.g. face-to-face contact, telephone,
some electronic media) while unequivocal messages can be carried by leaner
channels (e.g. memos, letters, flyers).
o Mediated/Unmediated: While they share many of the same basic functions and
processes, the choice of mediated or unmediated channels is an important one.
Mediated communication is dependent on or involves an intermediate person,
thing, or process, as opposed to unmediated communication (e.g. face-to-face)
that is direct and does not involve some sort of medium such as computer,
internet, phone, fax, or other types of technology. Mediated communication
offers the opportunity to manage and regulate the information exchanged and
unmediated communication can increase clarity, reduce ambiguity, illuminate
attractive aspects of the communicator, and enhance credibility.
o Social presence: Social presence, which is related to the concepts of intimacy
and immediacy, depends not only on words but also a range of verbal and
nonverbal cues and context. The manner in which a communication channel is
seen to convey the presence of those communicating, thereby offering broad
immediate information exchange possibilities, determines its degree of social
presence. Social presence is highest in face-to-face communication and lower
in voice mail, text, and e-mail.
A communicator (the sender) encodes a message according to her or his own
perceptions, experiences, and abilities. The sender then determines which
communication channel-the method or medium-is most appropriate to use to convey
the message. The message travels across the communication channel and is then
decoded by the receiver(s) who interprets (decodes) the message according to his or
her own perceptions, abilities, and experiences.
Sending a message from source to receiver constitutes one-way communication.
Adding the final stage, known as feedback, creates two-way communication.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
o Feedback is a response to a person’s behavior and it influences the manner in
which that behavior will continue or not.
o During the feedback process the receiver puts the message back into a channel
to seek clarification, confirm what the receiver thought the sender said, or
check for understanding and possible misinterpretation.
o Feedback allows the receiver to show the sender she or he is paying attention
and clearly understands the messages being sent.
o Feedback can be verbal or nonverbal through the use of paraphrasing,
questioning, nodding, gesturing, or even eye movement.
Effective Media Selection
 The medium (or media, if more than one medium is needed) selected to transmit a
message can enhance or reduce the effectiveness of the message being sent.
 Four media each with advantages and disadvantages:
1. Oral communication or spoken communication tends to be the most preferred
form of communication for managers; it provides an automatic two-way
exchange, to obtain immediate feedback.
2. Written communication is the most effective method for sending precise or
complex information, such as a letter, contract, memo, report or presentation.
3. Non-verbal communication.
4. Electronic communication is effective for sending brief messages quickly to
one or more persons via email, faxing, teleconferencing, cell phones, voice
mail, IM, etc.
Information richness and Media Selection
 Sending messages requires one to examine the information capacity of data
 Examine the richness by evaluating four factors:
o Feedback: Do the media allow for two-way communication and contain the
ability and speed necessary to provide the requisite feedback? The range of
feedback would consist of immediate to very slow.
o Channel: Do the media allow for multiple cues ranging from combined visual
and audio to limited visual?
o Type of communication: Do the media allow for emotional or personal
connection; is it personal or impersonal?
o Language source: Is the source of the information from a natural source or
body source (an individual) or is it from a purely data or numeric source?
 Understanding the richness clarifies which media is most effective for sending
your message
Barriers to Communication
 Noise is any distortion factor that blocks or disrupts the flow of information between
sender and receiver, hindering the communication process.
 Information Overload is the ability to process only so much information. It can be
caused by:
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
 Presenting too much material.
 Presenting information that is overly complex.
 Presenting information too quickly.
 Presenting at a level of difficulty that goes beyond the person's understanding.
 Not giving the person sufficient time to process the information.
Trust and credibility: Lack of trust is a barrier to effective communication. Lack of
credibility prevents the listener from fully receiving your message.
Time: Lack of time causes miscommunications, rushing to communicate often leads to
errors, important details that are left out, or saying things that you later regret.
Filtering: Filtering is the intentional manipulation of information to make it more
favorable to the receiver.
Emotions: Emotions or strong feelings such as fear, love, hate, happiness and anger
can interfere with communication on the other person.
Caveat: Note that people can be both rational and emotional. Seldom are we
Message Congruency: Communicators must carefully consider the potential message
being sent nonverbally through gestures and body language. The nonverbals must
reinforce the message, not contradict it.
Assertive Communication
 Assertive communication is a form of communication in which you speak up for your
rights and take into account the rights and feelings of others; to keep contact lines open
and show respect for others while standing up for your beliefs and preferences; this is
usually the most appropriate communication style.
 Elements of assertive communication include:
 Fairness
 Directness
 Tact and sensitivity
 Honesty
Two other types of communication styles:
1. Passive behaviors include indirectness, avoiding conflict, being easily
persuaded/bullied, being overly concerned about pleasing others, and screening
or withholding your thoughts and feelings to the extent that the person with
whom you’re communicating has no idea of your real opinion on the matter
being addressed.
2. Aggressive Communication: Aggressive behaviors include exerting control over
others, humiliating others, dominating, being pushy, always needing to be right,
using absolute terms and blaming others.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
How to Communicate Assertively
 There are three parts to an assertive statement:
1. Your perspective/perception of the situation.
2. Your feelings about the situation.
3. Your wants regarding the situation or outcome.
"Taking responsibility" and using "I" statements”
Some ways to take responsibility and clarify assumptions include:
 Specify the behavior(s) on which the assumption is based.
 If your assumption is based on your own expectation of the listener’s behavior, state
that expectation specifically.
 If your assumption compares the listener’s behavior with that of other members of a
reference group, clarify that group and exactly how the behavior compares.
 Elicit feedback about your assumptions.
Using the “I” message
 An “I” message allows a person who is affected by the behavior of another to
express the impact it has on him or her and leave the responsibility for modifying the
behavior with the person who demonstrated that particular behavior.
 Consists of three parts:
1. The specific behavior.
2. The resulting feeling you experienced because of the behavior.
3. The tangible effect on you.
Twelve Tips for Sending Effective Verbal Messages
Be direct: others may not pick up on your hints or may misinterpret them.
Consider your audience: communicate with them in terms of their interests, values,
and backgrounds.
Be clear: don’t ask questions when you need to make a statement. Focus on one thing
at a time; know your purpose and have an objective; think and organize your
thoughts before speaking.
Watch the nonverbal aspects of communicating: make your facial expression and
gestures congruent with your verbal statements.
Pay attention to the receivers: watch for their nonverbal clues, not just what they’re
Be redundant if needed: repeat or restate something to make it clearer to the receiver.
Communicate bit by bit: make the pieces sufficiently understandable individually and
as a whole.
Use varying techniques to send your message to accommodate various learning styles
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Cover your bases: write it, review it, demonstrate it, and defend it.
Build in feedback and check for understanding: ask for feedback and clarification.
Be straightforward with no hidden agenda or lies: deal with issues straight-on and in
a timely manner, often, and openly.
Be supportive: avoid labels, sarcasm, dragging up the past, negative comparisons, and
“you” messages and threats.
Sending Messages Effectively
 Be direct
 Consider the audience
 Be clear
 Watch the nonverbal cues
 Pay attention to the receiver
 Be redundant if needed
 Communicate by bits
 Use varying techniques to accommodate various learning styles
 Write it, review it, demonstrate it and defend it
 Build in feedback to check for understanding
 Be straight-forward
 Be supportive
Teaching Notes
Motivating the discussion:
 Ask students to brainstorm: "When you're involved in a communication that's
ineffective—you didn't get what you wanted, you walked away feeling misunderstood,
or things seem clear at the time but later you realize there was a misunderstanding—
what are some of the reasons that could lead to this problem?" In small groups or in a
large discussion, scribe the answers for all to see. (If appropriate, ask students to
focus their comments on the business setting, i.e., communication problems between
employees and customers, supervisors, subordinates, fellow employees.) Throughout
the ensuing discussion, you can return to the list and ask if some of these causes would
be reduced if the techniques.
 Ask students, "How many of you have, have had, or know someone who's had a
particularly bad roommate? They eat your food, listen to music at all hours of the
night, take your clothes, are total slobs, etc. (Most students have good stories!!!)
Then, after discussing the stories, ask students, "What have you done to deal with this
roommate?" (It is likely that few students have confronted their roommates. "I don't
want them to hate me, I don't want to be a pain, I can live with the mess, They're likely
not to change, etc.") Would you like to learn ways to communicate your concerns and
feelings to a roommate while still maintaining and perhaps improving your
relationship with them?
 Another option is asking participants how they deal with telemarketer phone calls.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Other questions can include: “Tell me about a time when you felt really positive after
a difficult conversation with a friend or co-worker—what did you do to ensure the
conversation went well?” Conversely: “Tell us about a time when you felt strongly
about something but were afraid to stand up for your views. Describe the situation
and say why it was you were afraid to be more honest about your real feelings.” Or:
"Have you ever wondered why you asked someone to do something and it never got
done or didn't get done correctly?" "Have you ever had an argument with someone as
a result of a simple miscommunication?" "Do you sometimes think your messages
aren't being received by your audience the way you intended them?”
Ideas for presenting the material:
Read or post the following clip from a recent “Dear Abby” column:
Dear Abby: My mother expects us to supply her with school pictures of our children.
That is a problem because she insists on getting the large pictures that fit the frames
she bought years ago. She actually demands the large pictures.
Abby, the large pictures are not in our budget, and she hasn't offered to help pay for
them. The other set of grandparents are delighted with whatever pictures they
received, but not my own mother. Can you offer advice on how to handle the
unrealistic demands and help us avoid the agony of a confrontation again this year?
Advice? (Some ideas include: Tell the mother that providing the large pictures she
requests would create a financial hardship. Let her know that if she wants the large
photos, she will need to subsidize the cost. This one could be hard because it's a
mother, not a friend. It's also important to bring up the fact that the daughter’s
compliance with her mother's wishes for this long is tantamount to accepting this
behavior pattern. Had she politely objected the request or asked for a subsidy the first
time, it wouldn’t be so hard now.)
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Another idea is to ask students to imagine that they're at a nice restaurant with a
couple of friends. “You order the filet mignon, medium rare (okay, some students will
have to make believe they're not vegetarians, or that they would order a steak this
way). About twenty minutes later, the waiter brings your steak well done. How many
of you (by a show of hands) would eat the steak? Why?" This discussion gets at the
reasons students (possibly a majority, depending on the geographic region and other
factors) are not assertive. "I don't want to be a pain, make a scene, etc. It's not that
big of a deal. I don't want to wait while my friends eat. How bad could the steak be?"
are typical comments you might expect. Respond with, "But you've just shelled out
$20-30 of your hard-earned money for this meal. Surely you expect to be satisfied?"
More discussion ensues. Now, ask, "So, you eat a couple bites of your poorly made
steak, pay your bill and leave. What's likely to happen?" Students reply that you are
likely not to come back AND tell friends about this experience, too. Now ask students
"If you were the owner of this steakhouse, would this situation concern you?" This
discussion gets at the importance of (clear and assertive) communication in business.
Caveat: Some faculty are conflicted about the use of "I" statements in
communications. Some of the gender communication literature warns women NOT to
use "I" statements, or to use too many questions in their communications, as these tend
to cue others to their presumed lack of understanding and even to their acquiescence
regarding an issue. You might want to cover this in greater depth or not at all
depending on your own inclination and on the level of students you're teaching.
Discussion Questions
With so much communication occurring on-line today—in fact, it's not unusual to find
people in adjacent offices using email to communicate to one another—what are some
ways to ensure your message is received as it was intended? (see chapter for more
 First, make sure the medium selected is appropriate. If your communication is critical
and requires discussion and clarification, email may not be your best bet.
 To improve the likelihood your emailed message is received as intended, set the
message aside and reread later before sending. What are other possible
interpretations? Can the message be made clearer?
 Before hitting the send button, ensure you have indicated only those recipients who
should receive the email. Don't send your email to a list serve if only one person
should be receiving it.
 Follow up your email with verbal communication to ensure the message was both
received and understood.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
What are some common barriers to communication? Discuss how they impact the
communication process. (See chapter outline for more information.)
 Information overload
 Lack of trust and credibility
 Lack of time
 Filtering
 Emotions
 Incongruence between verbal and nonverbal messages
Picture this. It's Sunday morning, a few hours before the annual company picnic. The
wife, while ironing her dress, asks her husband, "Do we really have to go to the picnic
today?" The husband responds, "Yes." Is there a communication breakdown, and if
so, who is responsible?
 Clearly, the wife doesn't want to go, but the husband doesn't realize this. She has
failed to assertively state why she feels the way she does. She asks a question when
she should be making a statement. Further, her nonverbal language (ironing her dress)
indicates she is making plans to attend. Perhaps her emotions (she loves her husband
and wants to please him so is passive about her feelings) got in the way. She may
have been to the last three picnics without a complaint so this question may not raise a
sufficient red flag about her concerns.
 The husband is responsible, too. From her inflection, she signals a concern, though
she doesn't do so assertively. If he were paying attention to both the context and
delivery of her message, he might pick up on her hesitation and ask, "I sense you have
some misgivings about going. Am I correct?" His empathic perception check is likely
to lead to a more honest and relationship-enhancing discussion.
Picture this. Your roommate is a total slob. Today, you've decided you've had enough
and piled all his/her dirty clothes on his/her bed and vacuumed the room you share.
What message did your roommate receive from this gesture?
 Likely responses include: that s/he's a slob, that you've violated his/her space by
touching his/her things, that you just moved the clothes so you could vacuum, that you
enjoy cleaning.
 Discuss how dropping hints is an ineffective way of getting your point across.
Notes on Selected Exercises
Exercise 7–A
Purpose: To demonstrate the use and importance of two-way communication
Time: 20-30 min.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Resources/Set-up: 3 participants, copy of the series of objects, paper and pencils
Activity Instructions:
You will need three volunteers, one to describe the objects to the class, one to observe the person
describing and one to observe the audience.
 Have the sender sit or stand facing away from the class. It will be helpful if s/he can be
hidden from sight. The sender should then proceed to describe a series of objects to the
class. The class is to draw what they believe is being described to them as accurately as
possible. They are not allowed to ask questions or have any discussion with the sender.
Inform them that they are to work on their own and make no audible responses.
 After they have finished the first set of objects, record on a chalkboard (see example
below) how long the first activity took, and ask the participants how many they believe
they drew correctly. Record these figures in the confidence level column.
Confidence level
Round 1
Round 2
Next have the sender face the class and proceed to describe another series of objects.
The class is to draw the objects the best they can from the description. This time they are
allowed to ask questions and discuss the objects with the sender.
Then record the length of time the second activity took. Again ask for the confidence
level for the second set of objects.
Draw the first set of objects on the board and get the accuracy level and record on the
Draw the second set of objects on the board and record the accuracy level for object two.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
The figures look like this:
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Square Arrangement I:
One-Way Communication
Square Arrangement II:
Two-Way Communication
 Begin debriefing by asking the participants to discuss what the exercise illustrated.
(e.g., it takes more time for two way communication, but it's more accurate)
 Point out the differences of one-way verses two-way communication. Relate this to
what can happen if one-way communication is used in a managerial setting.
 Have the observers share their perceptions. What did they notice about the sender and
the class in round 1? Round 2?
 Ask the sender to describe their feelings about performing this task. In what ways did
their feelings change from round 1 to round 2?
 Other information brought out by students may include listening skills, actual verbal
abilities, the need for paraphrasing and verbal and non-verbal content
Exercise 7–B
Purpose: To determine individual comfort level with facing assertive situations and the
ability to take assertive action
Time: 15-30 min
Resources/Set-up: Copy of the Assertion Inventory (see chapter)
Activity Instructions: This activity can be done as a homework assignment and used to lead
into a discussion on assertive communication
Participants are to complete the Assertion Inventory. To do this, they should read
through the statements the first time and determine their comfort level associated with
each situation using the scale on the first page.
After this step is completed, they should then re-read the statements and record their
probable response for each situation using the probability scale on the first page.
Participants should add both columns to get two final scores.
Participants should use the two scores to locate the quadrant on the Scoring Grid (see
chapter) in which they fall.
Discuss the results and the implications each category represents.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
A person who is unassertive has a high level of discomfort with assertiveness and
a low probability of responding appropriately in a situation requiring assertiveness.
It is likely that persons who come into contact with someone who is not assertive
will have difficulty determining his or her true intentions.
An anxious performer is someone who is able to act assertively but is
uncomfortable doing so. They will be able to act appropriately while experiencing
a high level of anxiety about the situation.
Those who don't care are unlikely to act assertively in a situation and feel no
discomfort about the situation. Persons interacting with them will have little
understanding of how he or she really feels.
Those who are assertive care a lot about a situation and have a low level of anxiety
about the situation. Those who are assertive both feel comfortable in situations
requiring assertiveness and are able to act assertively when needed.
The main point: to act assertively requires a low level of anxiety about speaking up
for one's rights and beliefs.
 Does the evaluation match how students see themselves? (Remind them of the steak
or roommate examples.)
 Does the evaluation surprise anyone? Why or why not?
 Are students satisfied with their current level of assertiveness?
 If not, in what ways should they change this?
 What are some barriers to making this change?
Exercise 7–C
Purpose: To examine the three possible responses (passive, aggressive, assertive) to varying
situations and to analyze an individual's typical style.
Time: 30-45 minutes (compare answers and discuss) if the situations are completed outside
Resources/Set-up: Copy of exercise (see chapter)
Activity Instructions: This activity can be done as an individual homework/assessment
assignment or can be used in a group session by having participants discuss individual results
and present to a small group or large group. You may want to give one example in class if
given as an individual assignment.
Participants are to write a passive, aggressive and assertive statement or response for each of the
situations. They should also list potential consequences for each type of response.
I. You’ve been standing in line at the bookstore for over an hour and someone cuts in front of
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Passive response:
Do nothing--perhaps roll your eyes in disdain.
Aggressive response:
(pushing the person out of line) "Hey buddy—do you think
you're special or something? I've been waiting for over an hour and I'm not going to let some
jerk like you get in front of me!"
Assertive response:
(tapping the person's shoulder) "Excuse me. I've been waiting
for an hour and I don't think it's fair that you cut in front of me.” (Signaling behind you),
“The line is back there, unless someone else doesn't mind you taking a shortcut."
II. You live in an apartment with three other people. One person is very messy and sloppy,
leaves dishes on the table and in the sink, eats your food, and leaves garbage in all rooms of
the apartment.
Passive response:
Fume quietly or angrily make noise while cleaning the dishes yourself.
Aggressive response:
"How come you're such a slob? Not only do you leave your
dishes out, but whenever we go anywhere, you always let someone else clean up your mess!”
Assertive response:
“Hi. I'm glad we have a chance to talk. Our roommates are
starting to get concerned about the dirty dishes in the kitchen.
It's starting to get on our
nerves. Can we work something out here that is more fair for everyone?”
III. A telemarketer calls you on the phone when you are in the middle of completing work for
a deadline. They are going through their sales pitch for buying magazines.
Passive response:
“No one by that name lives here”—a lie.
Aggressive response:
“How come you guys insist on calling right at dinner time? I'm
sick of it and sick of you.” (Hang up loudly and forcefully!)
Assertive response:
“I would like to request that my name be removed from your
calling list. Whom can I contact to be sure this is done?”
IV. You go to an expensive steakhouse and you order your steak medium rare and it is served to
you well done.
Passive response:
Just sit there and eat it.
Aggressive response:
for it.”
“This stuff is (expletive!). I'm not eating it and I'm not paying
Assertive response: “Perhaps you forgot but I ordered this medium rare. This steak
is well done. Can you please have a new serving cooked the way I asked for it? Thanks.”
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
 From the above situations, which responses would you most likely give? What is your
 Is there a pattern for your behavior? Describe.
 If your approach to these situations is primarily passive, why is this so? Are you getting
your needs met?
 If your approach to these situations is primarily aggressive, why is this so? What impact
might this have on others?
 Which responses are the most effective and why?
 What are some alternate responses that would work effectively in these situations?
Exercise 7–D
This can be done by the participants as an assignment or they can discuss in pairs or a class
discussion can be facilitated by the Instructor.
Additional Exercises:
Purpose: To practice developing assertive statements and responses
Time: 20-40 min
Resources/Set-up: Copy of assertive situations (see chapter)
Activity Instructions: This exercise can be used as homework/assessment or partially
assigned as preparation for class
Participants are to apply principles of assertive communication in formulating a script for each of
the situations depicted. Have participants discuss or practice their responses in a role play to
evaluate the effectiveness of their statements.
 How can these situations be approached in a way that both parties feel good about the
 How can the initiator of the conversation prevent the recipient from feeling defensive?
 What can the initiator say that would engage the recipient in creative discussion about
alternatives to be considered?
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Purpose: To practice developing and using “I” statements
Time: 30 minutes to complete, 20-40 minutes to discuss, process
Resources/Set-up: Copy of the Taking Responsibility worksheet (see chapter)
Activity Instructions: Participants should read the section in the chapter on this topic before
completing the Taking Responsibility worksheet. For each of the comments listed,
participants are to write the underlying assumption(s) about the speaker's intent in making the
statement and then rewrite the comment to reflect efforts to take responsibility and to
communicate assumptions clearly. (Examples are provided; other acceptable responses exist.)
1. "Can’t you work under pressure?”
Assumption: Listener is buckling under the pressure of their job/task (showing
physical signs).
Rewritten statement: "I've noticed that you make more mistakes and appear more
frustrated when the restaurant fills up during lunch time. Am I correct? What can I do
to help?”
“You’re not listening to me.”
Assumption: Listener is reading the newspaper.
Rewritten statement: "What I have to say is important, and I need your undivided
attention. If this is a bad time, when would be a good time to talk?"
“Will you work overtime Friday?”
Assumption: The listener would be hard pressed to say "no."
Rewritten statement: "We have an important client meeting that's been pushed back to
Monday and I could really use your help getting the presentation ready. Could you
work late Friday? If we work together, we probably can get done in just a few hours.
If not Friday, how about today?"
“Joyce, what have you done with the production figures?”
Assumption: Joyce lost the figures.
Rewritten statement: "Joyce, I'm having difficulty locating the production statistics
for last month. Do you know where I could get a copy?"
“Are you getting all this down in writing?”
Assumption: Listener is inept and needs written instructions.
Rewritten statement: "Getting the funding for this project depends on how well we
follow the process. I would like you to write down these steps…1… 2…3."
“Why are you mad at me?”
Assumption: Listener did something to anger the speaker.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
Rewritten statement: "When you hung up the phone abruptly last night, I get the sense
that I said something that angered you. Am I correct? Can we talk about it?”
“You’ve never appreciated my work.”
Assumption: Listener feels unappreciated.
Rewritten statement: "At the last few meetings, you've made a point of recognizing
the work that Dave, Alice and Sean have been doing. However, my name has never
come up. Am I not meeting your expectations?"
 Some of these can be challenging. A few don't "sound bad" to students, e.g., "Will
you work overtime Friday?" The issue here is that when a boss asks a subordinate,
s/he is expected to be loyal and answer affirmatively. What if you have tickets to a
sporting event? What if you really enjoy watching TV in the comfort of your own
home? What if you'd do it as long as you can get comp time or overtime pay? Discuss
how you would respond in these situations.
 One way to get participants to realize the weight of these statements is to imagine
being on the receiving end of one (or more) of them. Would they feel defensive?
Would they respond aggressively (in kind)?
 Make the point that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. You can still
get what you want, but by taking responsibility, you do it in a way that promotes
further, more effective communication than is illustrated by the example: "You're not
listening to me." "Yes I am."
 Sometimes we have to examine our motives. Are we trying to put people down
intentionally, as is illustrated in several of these statements? Or do we do that
unknowingly, because we don't stop to think about how the intended recipient will
respond to our message?
Additional Resources
R. E. Albert and M. L. Emmons, Your Perfect Right: A Guide to Assertive Behavior, San
Luis Obispo, CA: Impact Publisher, Inc., 1974.
Anjali Athavaley, “A Job Interview You Don’t Have to Show Up For: Microsoft, Verizon,
Other Use Virtual Worlds to Recruit; Dressing Avatars for Success,” Wall Street Journal,
June 20, 2007, D1.
Charles R. Berger, “Interpersonal Communication: Theoretical Perspectives, Future
Prospects,” Journal of Communication 55, no. 3 (Sep 2005), pp. 415-447.
Susan Bixler and Lisa Scherrer Dugan, 5 Steps to Professional Presence, Adams Media
Corporation, Dec. 2000.
Stephen E Catt, Donald S Miller, and Nitham M Hindi, “Don't Misconstrue Communication
Cues,” Strategic Finance 86, no.12 (Jun 2005), pp. 50–55.
Chapter 07 - Conveying Verbal Messages
J Michael Crant, “Proactive Behavior in Organizations,” Journal of Management 26, no. 3
2000, pp. 435–462.
Chris Fullwood, “The Effect of Mediation on Impression Formation: A Comparison of FaceTo-Face and Video-Mediated Conditions,” Applied Ergonomics 38, no. 3 (May 2007), pp.
Reid Goldsborough, “Keeping E-Mail in Top Form,” Tech Directions 65, no. 5 (Dec 2005),
pg. 9.
Jeffrey T Hancock and Philip J Dunham, “Impression Formation in Computer-Mediated
Communication Revisited: An Analysis of the Breadth and Intensity of Impressions,”
Communication Research 28, no. 3 (Jun 2001), pp. 325–347.
Lynne Kelly and James A. Keaten, “Development of the Affect for Communication Channels
Scale,” Journal of Communication 57, no.2 (June 2007), pp. 349–365.
Samantha R Murray and Joseph Peyrefitte, “Knowledge Type and Communication Media
Choice in the Knowledge Transfer Process,” Journal of Managerial Issues 19, no. 1 (Spring
2007), pp. 111-133.
Emily Nussbaum, “Say Everything. As younger people reveal their private lives on the
Internet, the older generation looks on with alarm and misapprehension not seen since the
early days of rock and roll. The future belongs to the uninhibited.” New York Magazine,
February 12, 2007 (
J.William Pfeiffer, "Submission/Aggression/Assertion: Nonverbal Components," Structured
Experiences Kit, University Associates, Inc., San Diego, CA, International Authors B.V.
Jane Read, “Are We Losing the Personal Touch?,” The British Journal of Administrative
Management (Apr/May 2007), pp. 22–23.
Karl L. Smart and Richard Featheringham, “Developing Effective Interpersonal
Communication and Discussion Skills,” Business Communication Quarterly 69, no. 3
(Sep2006), pp. 276–283.
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