Amanda Lee: Lost in Translation

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Greece Trip group photo

During my study abroad experience in Greece, our traveling group became a team. We stuck together on our tours through museums and we traveled in packs to group meals. However, being a team comes with the obligation and the responsibility to stay connected. Effective communication is essential to keep all members of the team informed and engaged. Yet, throughout our time in Greece, communication was tricky. I found that oftentimes the reasons for our miscommunication aligned closely to the communication influences discussed in Jason Colquitt’s book Organizational Behavior.

One factor that influenced the communication process most directly in Greece was the occurrence of communicator error. These errors can arise in two ways: either during the encoding of the message by the sender or the decoding of the message by the receiver. This form of influence repeatedly hindered our ability to transmit messages efficiently during our travels. In one instance, I made a comment on how someone was “filthy”. This comment was mistakenly taken as meaning dirty or unclean, while I meant highly skilled or very cool. As a result, the receiver thought I was criticizing the subject of our conversation, when in reality, I was complimenting them. Fortunately, we were able to clarify this misunderstanding in a matter of minutes. Nonetheless, this breakdown in communication reduced the
overall efficiency of our conversation.

The second factor that influenced our communication process in Greece was noise. On one late night outing, the loud music of the bar created an impossible environment to communicate in. My group and I found ourselves constantly leaning in and yelling, “What!?” to each other. The noise required us to exert more effort in order to convey our message. In most instances this led to the increased use of alternative means of communication, like hand gestures towards the bathroom when we needed to pee. However, like Colquitt pointed out, “if one or two parties to the communication isn’t willing to put in the extra effort to send and receive messages when there is noise, the conversation likely will not last very long” (128). In many instances our team opted to silence rather than trying to communicate over the noise.

The final factor that influenced communication is information richness which pertains to the depth of information conveyed. When using text as a communication medium, transmitting high levels of information richness becomes challenging. This is intuitive given text communication lacks nonverbal cues like body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. In Greece, the level of information richness impacted the quality of our transmitted messages. One incident occurred while waiting for someone to join us for dinner. I sent a text to the receiver asking, “coming?” Unfortunately, the message was interpreted as me being angry about their delay. However, the intention was simply to see if they had left the room yet to determine if we had more time. This intention was not effectively conveyed and the miscommunication resulted in an unhappy response from the receiver. Only later when I explained my brief and punctuated texting style did the confusion get cleared up. Trying to discern the emotions behind a short text message is difficult and I hold no blame toward the receiver or myself for the miscommunication that occurred. Nonetheless, this serves as a reminder that many times negative emotions are perceived in messages even when they are not there.

Overall, my time in Greece was an amazing experience filled with engaging conversation. Despite these influences, communication with my team (while tricky) was not impossible. As we spent more time together we learned who responds to texts, who doesn’t respond to group messages and who will only respond if you directly facetime them. Consequently, communication became smoother throughout the trip. Saying goodbye to Greece will be difficult, particularly because we were only taught how to say hello. Yet, the connections we made and the conversations we had will forever stay with us.