Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Week 4, Resolving interpersonal conflict

Interpersonal conflicts are almost inevitable in various contexts. Because people make mistakes and different person holds different opinions and stands. We may run into conflicts not only with people we do not know very well but also with people we love - friends or family members. The most recent conflict I have had is with one of my friends during the Chinese New Year.

As most overseas Chinese students do during Chinese New Year, I gather together with a bunch of friends. Eating, drinking and playing games to celebrate Chinese New Year. To us, this is much more than a party. Because in China Chinese New Year is a time for people to go home and be company to family members and relatives after a long-year’s work not matter well done or otherwise. For many people this is the only chance in a year to cultivate their family ties which are essential in Chinese culture. When my friends and I celebrate Chinese New Year together, we see each other more than just a friend but as a substitute of our respective family members who are thousands of miles away.

The conflict occurred when I was playing a role-playing game with my friends during the Chinese New Year gathering. Each of us was assigned a role and the whole group was divided into a few parties. Only one party could win the game by defeating the rest. The game was supposed to be for fun but after a while me and another friend of mine (let’s call him John) got too involved in the game and we became very serious. John was in party A and I was in party B. Each of us was trying to ally with another friend (let’s call him Simon) who was in party C. Whoever lost the alliance was most likely to lose the game. John was trying to convince Simon that allying with him could bring Simon the most benefit. And I was trying to do the same for myself too. As the “campaign” went on, conversations turned into arguments. I and John started pointing fingers to each other and trying to show that the other’s viewpoint was completely biased and wrong. Then, both of us felt offended and annoyed by the other. The more annoying and offended we felt, the worsen language we used. The worsen language used, the more annoying and offended we felt. The cycle went on and situation was really bad.

I think the cause of the conflict was that both of us were too involved in the game and we didn’t have the empathy to understand the rightness of the other’s desire to win. We only thought about our own eager to win and ignored the other’s feeling.

To some extent, John and I were in a family. Still we had this conflict. I think empathy is very important in avoiding this kind of conflict. But while in this conflict, what are the effective communication skills needed to resolve the awkward and intense situation and subsequently fix the friendship?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Week 2, effective communication skills

Effective communication is to convey messages clearly and without misunderstanding.

As a graduating Mechanical Engineering student, in a few months' time I will step into a real workplace. Whatever industry I will work for, effective communication skills will be important in daily work. Because industrial technologies and products are not simple, people do not work along but work in groups and teams in various projects. Some projects even involve multi-discipline works which makes effective communications skills more important. Although I have worked on a few multi-discipline student projects, I am weak in communicating effectively. I found it was difficult to explain a topic clearly to people who were not specialized in the area. People often do not understand what I want them to know. There is a gap between what I think my audience would know from the messages I send and what they really receive. This happens many times, although communication is a two way process, there are problems in my communications skills.

This course covers various communications skills including written communication, oral communication and even some job application and interview skills. All these skills are what I need. There are various presentations, assignments and projects in this course which will give me lots of opportunities to practice on communication and there are teacher and peers to give suggestions on my communication weaknesses and strengths. I will have the right advices and chances to correct my mistakes and improve my communication skills. I really look forward to improve communication skills together with all my fellow classmates.