Communication Midterm Assignment


Week 2 Posting: Communication Models (Transactional and CMAPP) For this week, your textbook readings were Chapter 2—The CMAPP Analysis, Chapter 3—Complementary Attributes of the CMAPP Model, and Chapter 5—From Data to Information of the textbook. I hope that my posting, and the files to which I’ll refer you, will give you a clearer understanding of those chapters and of how you may apply their information.

The Words of Communication People have been talking to each other for untold generations. If you’re interested in the history of language, you might want to begin on sites such as the ones below.

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By the way, how many languages are there? You can find opinions at the following sites, for example.

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Part of the problem in counting them is that different linguists have different opinions on what constitutes a language versus a dialect. Have a look, for example, at

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Regardless of how really did originate and develop—and, apart from the certainty expressed by some “creation theorists”, we will likely never really know—it is clear that human language is at once very simple and extraordinarily complex.

It’s simple in that every language seems to use a quite limited number of what are called phonemes—sounds that, within that language, have distinct meaning, and that, regardless of how you “count” words, people seem able to get across basic meanings using very few of them.

On the other hand, the number of phonemes used in contemporary languages is enormous, though, apparently, much smaller than the number of sounds the human vocal apparatus can produce. Even the way that today’s languages may be related to each other through their histories is not clear cut. The following sites offer slightly different points of view.

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And we haven’t even considered the phonemes that might have been used by languages no longer with us. Languages have died out or are moribund in all the continents besides Antarctica. See the following, for example.

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Still, human language seems to continue to display a number of constants. Among them is our ability to

©DIWIS 2014

differentiate words. But, what is a “word”? Most of us, of course, believe we know exactly what a word is. So, what is your answer to that question? When I ask it in class, I tend to get certain replies… for which I express some concerns. Consider:

Answer 1: A word is a group of letters that we understand.

Comment 1: This implies that only languages that are written can contain words. There have been many languages—and, probably, still are some—that have never been committed to writing… and yet they obviously have words.

Comment 2: It also implies that only languages that use alphabets can have words. Chinese, spoken by hundreds of millions of people, however, doesn’t use an alphabet: it uses a different kind of writing system often called ideograms. Yet Chinese, of course, has words.

Answer 2: A word is any sound that has meaning.

Comment: If I scream in pain or in fear, you’d certainly understand the meaning. Yet, I don’t think you’d categorize that sound as a word. Analogously, if I loudly banged my fist on the table in anger, you’d understand my meaning, but still wouldn’t call that sound a word.

I then ask for someone who speaks a language that I do not. Invariably, I find a student who speaks one; perhaps it’s Chinese, Vietnamese, Punjabi, Farsi, Swahili, or Albanian. Let’s suppose the student speaks Urdu. I ask the person to stand in front of me, and I say something like, “Suppose you start to shake my hand, and, with a smile on your face, say to me in Urdu, the equivalent of ‘Ingre, you are one miserable, sorry-assed, son of a bitch!” What will I do?” Once the smiles and chuckles have stopped, I explain: “I’ll shake your hand, smile back, and say, ‘Thank you; pleased to meet you, too…’ Now, when you said those bad things to me, what did I actually hear?”

Think about that for a moment. Now, here’s my own response. I heard noises—ones produced by the human voice. That’s all. I did not hear what I could identify as words, because I don’t speak the language.

So, on one very important level, words are simply bunches of noises. However—and this a gigantic “however”— as soon as groups of people begin to attribute meaning to those bunches of noises, the impact is absolutely enormous. Reflect for a moment. From my own cursory knowledge of history, it seems that throughout human civilization, people have been persecuted, jailed, or executed—simply for making noises. I find that both astonishing and a bit frightening. It is, though, reality: people imbue bunches of noises they make with meaning… and they thereby use language to communicate with each other.

Communication Models As mentioned in Chapter 2, people have developed a host of different communication models to help describe and, perhaps, improve linguistic communication. (I say “linguistic”, because, of course, we use additional means as well—gesture and facial expression, for example.)

Implications of the Transactional Model Among the most durable, perhaps, are the various “flavours” of the transactional model. Pages 13 and 14 of your text show two versions. In the figure on the next page, I’d like to present a third, that includes additional elements.

You’ll note two things about this transactional model:

1. It’s predicated on the idea that communication must involve at least two people: a sender and a receiver. 2. It is a linear model: communication always proceeds in one direction—from sender to receiver. Note

that if the original receiver responds to the original sender, their roles are reversed, but the “direction” of communication remains the same.

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Figure: A Transactional Model (Personal sketch)

Now, let’s suppose that you’re going to be the sender. The first thing you need to do is decide exactly what it is you want to communicate. And that, in fact, is often the hardest task. All too often, we sit down at a keyboard and start typing, thinking something like, “I have to write to so-and-so about something to do with something about that kind of thing, approximately, I think…” Naturally, we don’t do very well. When I was an undergraduate, a quip was in common circulation. “Caution: be sure to engage brain before putting mouth into motion.” Whether your want to communicate orally or in writing, you need to know—before you begin—precisely what it is that you want to say or to write.

The next thing you need to do is encode that content—in effect, put it into language. That might begin with choosing the language. When I worked for the Canadian federal government in Ottawa, I needed to ask myself whether the content should be in English, in French, or in both. In whichever language, you’ll need to choose the right words and the right expressions, and the right grammatical structures, and so forth.

Now, you’ll need to transmit that encoded content. In the transactional model, we talk about transmission channels or transmission vehicles. They’re not meant to be “rocket science”. In a face-to-face conversation between two speakers of the same language, the principal (I say principal because gesture, for example, can also be involved) transmission vehicle is sound. That means an oral (speech) / aural (hearing) process. Since no one’s oral mechanism is perfect and since no one’s aural mechanism is perfect, some “bits” get lost in transmission. We can refer to that phenomenon as interference. People who study interference say that between 5% and 15% of what the sender transmits can be lost. We usually talk about external interference and internal interference. Examples of the former would be someone entering the classroom while I’m speaking, several people coughing repeatedly, the power suddenly going out, the electronic distortion common over phone and Skype connections and so forth. Examples of the latter might be if my audience has just finished a large luncheon and is getting sleepy, if I am feeling unwell, if my audience has decided they really don’t like me, or if I’ve decided that I can’t stand my audience…

Whatever parts of the transmission remain intact now have to be decoded by the receiver. Does the receiver understand the language being used—English or French, for example? Does the receiver know the words being used, etc.?

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Then, the receiver has to interpret the decoded content. This becomes problematic because, in any language, words and expressions mean different things to different people. We usually talk about two kinds of meaning: denotation and connotation. The former might be described as the simple, empirical, dictionary definition. The latter includes this, but also encompasses the images, feelings, and responses elicited on the part of the receiver. Let me illustrate with the common English word home. Its denotation might be something like “principal residence of one or more individuals. Its connotation, though, depends on you. If you were lucky and had a happy childhood, “home” might have very positive connotations: happiness, security, comfort, laughter, etc. If you had a very unhappy childhood, though, “home” might hold very negative connotations for you: stress, anger, perhaps even danger. Interpretation of words depends in large part on the receiver.

Let me tell you a true story.

This happened a very long time ago, and yet, it still evokes strong emotions in me. At the end of the second week of October of 1991, I quite literally buried my best friend. Even after all these years, I can see, and feel, my reactions as though it were yesterday. We had been friends for about nine and a half years. For most of that time, he had been my best friend, and I could tell that I had been his. During a very difficult couple of years in my own life, it seemed that he was my only friend. So, we were very close. Some two years before he died, I learned that he had a progressive disease. At the time, no one really knew what caused it; and, there’s still no cure. So, I knew that it was going to be just a matter of time before I would lose him. When he finally succumbed, he weighed about 80 pounds. He quite literally died in my arms. I’d helped to dig his grave, and I helped to lay him in it. I’m not embarrassed to say that shortly after, I began to sob.

Now, I should tell you that, three or four years before he died, when he was still hale, hearty, and active, he weighed about 85 pounds, was close to three feet high, was brown with black markings, had small floppy ears, and a little stub of a tail that seemed to go berserk when he saw me come back from work.

You’re right: I’ve been talking about my dog. He was a big brindle boxer named Captain; and, everything I’ve told you is true. But, notice. As you were reading the story, you might well have been thinking, “Why would he be telling us this as part of a technical and business communications course?” And, once you realized I was talking about my dog, if you happened to really like dogs (as I obviously do), you might have thought something like, “Well, that is just so sad…” If you don’t happen to like dogs much, you might have reacted by thinking, “Sure; but it’s a damned dog!” There’s nothing wrong with either reaction, of course. What’s important, though, is the following. For the story, I chose words and expressions that tend to have high connotation. (Go back and look…) You all read the same ones; but, you responded differently—because of who you are, and, therefore, the way that you interpreted those words and expressions. Pretty obviously, then, the receiver’s interpretation plays a very important role in the effectiveness of communication.

The process we’ve just looked at helps to explain the gap you might notice between the fantastic, wonderful, marvellous idea you want to communicate (the smiley-face in Figure 1), and the rather different reaction you get from the receiver (the sad-face in Figure 1). One of the things that can help to narrow that gap is feedback. For whatever reason, people communicate more comfortably and more effectively when there’s the opportunity for constant feedback. Try the following. The next time you’re on the phone with someone you know well, just listen. I’m sure you think that you do listen. But, here, I mean, do nothing but listen: no “uh huh… yep… oh, sure… great… awesome… OK… etc.” Listen attentively but silently. Likely within 10-20 seconds (a very short time), you’ll hear, “Hello?” The person on the other end of the line wasn’t getting any feedback.

You should remember that when you send written communication, what the receiver gets is all the receiver has. There’s no opportunity for continued feedback—at least, not instantaneous. And, that makes for more difficult and, usually, more ineffective communication.

Finally, understand that, in many ways, language is insufficiently precise for really accurate communication. You really cannot preclude intentional misinterpretation. However, as a practitioner of technical and business communication, part of your job is to try to lessen the likelihood of unintentional misunderstanding. In other words, you try to narrow the gap between the happy-face and the sad-face.

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CMAPP Quite some years ago, a couple of colleagues and I were talking about discrepancies we’d noticed between what was then common textbooks for university business communication courses, and what we actually saw in the marketplace. (All of us have worked for may years in the private and/or public sectors.) The eventual result of our protracted conversations was that each of us developed a communication model, initially for use in our own classrooms. Mine became what I called the CMAPP model. Much later, the three of us “compared notes”; not really to our surprise, we discovered that, although the terminology in our three models was different, their basic ideas had proven all but identical. As well, we took a bit of admittedly conceited pride as we also noticed that the concepts we had brought to bear in our models had, more and more, become standard in the textbooks we now saw. Patting ourselves lightly on our respective backs, we smiled as we thought of ourselves as having been in the professional communication teaching vanguard.

Nonetheless, I still think that the CMAPP model, developed to deal exclusively with technical, business, professional communication, seems to work quite well. While I’d still adhere to the definitions and explanations in your textbook, I will add—or, perhaps, merely repeat—these observations.

• Unlike the transactional model, it is not linear. The CMAPP model is a dynamic model: every component affects and is affected by every other component all the time.

• Nor is it static. As soon as you communicate, you change the context, which has an effect on your audience, and so on. In a sense, you should never actually effect a piece of communication, because reality won’t stand still for it. But, here’s an analogy. Suppose you’re using a high-quality camera to take a photo of something and someone very significant to you. While you’re considering and then adjusting such things as angle, filters, and exposure time, the reality is changing, which means that you might need to modify the settings you’ve identified. At some point, though, you have to say, “enough”… and click the shutter to take the picture. In the same way, after you’ve gone through the process of your CMAPP Analysis, you need at some point to say, “enough”… and communicate— recognizing, however, that doing so means you’re changing the context and the other elements for whatever communication then ensues.

• Getting used to the model can be awkward. After all, we’re more accustomed to putting our mouth—or our word processor—in motion without being sure that we’ve engaged our brain. And the CMAPP model requires that we think very carefully before we start communicating.

• When you were first learning to drive a car, you were probably very conscious of every element of the “process”: clutch (if you drove standard transmission, as I did), brakes, accelerator, turn signals, steering, windshield wipers (if it was raining), other vehicles on the road, pedestrians, and so on. Over time, all those considerations became automatic… subconscious, if you like. I’d maintain you can do the same with the CMAPP model. For a while, actually write out your CMAPP analysis for your communications—at least, for those of some complexity and importance. Over time, the analysis becomes inevitable and unconscious. In effect, you’ve changed the CMAPP model to a CMAPP approach… which means that you—and I—have been successful with it.

Practice Finally, from the Week 2 segment, examine the following three files—in the order shown:

• CMAPP Approach-Strategy-Exercise.pdf, and • CMAPP Scenarios Exercise.pdf. • CMAPP Scenarios Exercise-Responses

I’d suggest that you download both and, perhaps, print the first two. That way, you’ll be able to insert your answers by hand.

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CMAPP Approach-Strategy-Exercise.pdf

• The first three pages show “thumbnail” images from a set of PowerPoint slides that were intended to reflect the basics of the CMAPP model and its approach.

• At the bottom of each image, notice the words, “© 2001 Nelson, a division of Thomson Learning”. They are there because I first created the slides for my textbook, Express, published in that year by what was the company then called ITP Nelson. Part of my agreement with them, however, was that I could use such material in any way I needed for my own teaching. Thus, you’ll also see, at the bottom of each page, “© 2002 DIWIS”. That acronym stands for David Ingre Written Image Services, the communications consultancy I actually started in 2000.

• Page 3 gives a brief overview of how to go about effecting a CMAPP analysis. • The remaining two pages are your exercise. I’ve given you a very short, very simple communication

task: tell someone about new computer system that you intend to buy. However, I’ve given you four somewhat scenarios in which to undertake this task.

• For each of them, pretend that the communication activity is of sufficient importance to you that you decide to undertake a CMAPP analysis. I’ve offered a number of potential CMAPP questions you might wish to ask yourself. And, I’ve given you some space in which to compose brief answers.

• Remember, though, not to ignore the obvious. We often do, and the obvious can sometimes be very important. For example, in “real life”, you’ll know whether you are male or female, and you’d recognize whether your audience is male or female. However, might that make a difference? In North America, we often try to believe that, in a business relationship, it’s of no consequence. You might have heard the saying, “It’s always dangerous to make a general statement.” I’ll make one, nonetheless. Most of the time, most women react differently to women than they do to men, and vice versa. That doesn’t mean that whether you or your audience are male or female will have a significant impact on how your communication proceeds. But, it might… and you should not ignore that possibility while conducting your CMAPP analysis.

• Note that there are no correct answers here. You’ll decide whether what you’ve put down is likely to work well. Of course, you could decide to discuss your answers with your class colleagues (and/or with me) in the Week 1 Forum.)

CMAPP Scenarios Exercise.pdf Here is another exercise that should help you become comfortable with applying the CMAPP model. I think that the instructions are fairly self-explanatory. Try to generate brief answers for all the “hypothetical” questions in both scenarios.

Once you’ve finished, have a look at CMAPP Scenarios Exercise-Responses.pdf. Although there are no correct answers, you’ll see what I considered to be “potential responses”—things that might work. Again, you might decide to discuss this exercise on line.

That’s all for now.

Please don’t hesitate to email me for any reason.


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  • Week 2 Posting: Communication Models (Transactional and CMAPP)
    • The Words of Communication
  • Communication Models
    • Implications of the Transactional Model
    • CMAPP
    • Practice
      • CMAPP Approach-Strategy-Exercise.pdf
      • CMAPP Scenarios Exercise.pdf