It’s all in the eyes!


“There are managers so preoccupied with their e-mail messages that they never look up from their screens to see what’s happening in the nondigital world” (Csikszentmihalyi, n.d.)

Relying on digital technology to deliver messages has created a business society that operates at an efficient, rapid pace.  Email has replaced the phone call or face-to-face meeting.  The ability to rapidly create a message and send it around the world instantaneously creates an environment where the true meaning of the sender is lost on the receiver.  This consequence cannot be reduced with emoticons or amusing anecdotes.  Instead, it is something that must be recognized and managed by professional communicators.

The three examples presented in the course are a great representation how the same content can be received in different ways just based on the method of distribution.  Kind words and understanding phrases are respectful, but without the non-verbal cues to reinforce their intent, the message could come across as demeaning and rude.  “Without hearing your voice or seeing your facial expressions, it is difficult to discern tone, meaning, and emphasis” (Bristol-Smith, 2011).  The voicemail is an improvement since the receiver can detect inflection in the senders voice which eliminates some of the risk of misunderstanding the message, but there is still some doubt as to the senders sincerity. 

The optimal method for communicating, in most situations, is face to face.  Eye contact, relaxed stance, and a non-confrontational verbal tone help sell the sincerity of the sender.  “Only a small percentage of communication involves actual words:  7% to be exact.  In fact, 55% of communication is visual and 38% is vocal (Gallo, 2007).

So what does all this mean?  For a project manager, using face-to-face communication methods to rely important or sensitive messages is best.  Whether this is an actual meeting between people or the use of video conferencing, make sure the receiver can see your face and read your non-verbal cues.  Of course, that also means the manager must be careful about how their body is sending a message.  Non-verbal cues can either sell, or confuse a message. By maintaining eye contact, the sender of the message demonstrates well deserved attention to the recipient.  “People want to feel special.  They want to feel as though you are speaking to them directly or that they are the most important person in the room during your conversation” (Gallo, 2007).  This is a fact that communicators too often forget.


Bristol-Smith, D. (2011).  The dangers of email.  Retrieved September 17, 2013 from

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (n.d.).  Quote.  Retrieved September 17, 2013 from

Gallo, C. (2007).  Body Language:  A key to success in the workplace.  BusinessWeek February 14, 2007.


5 thoughts on “It’s all in the eyes!

  1. stewartwilliamh


    I couldn’t agree more with your analysis and the resources you provide are excellent regarding visual communication. Even in Language courses, there are typically 3 standards that address, unsurprisingly, interpersonal, active (speaking/writing), and passive (listening, reading) communicative modes. However a more recent addition is visual communication in Language as well, which aptly refers to body language, gestures, and facial cues (as well as images in media). It isn’t typically confusion over what is said, rather, how it is. As you can imagine this varies across cultures. In Korea where I live, some of the “how” is very overt in the Language but can be ambiguous with the concept of saving-face being very important. There is no way to discern something like that without face-to-face interaction. I believe visual literacy for communicating ideas and emotions through means such as color, shape, pattern, proxemics, etc. is a partial equivalent in the digital world.

    1. dstroup461 Post author

      You make a great point about culture. I lived in Okinawa Japan for five years in the early 90s and had realize that the American style of communication did not work very well with the Okinawans. You had to exercise a great deal of restraint in your initial meetings while establishing a rapport with someone. Also, don’t mistaken the lack of eye contact as weakness! Thanks for the new view.

  2. Amanda Sutliff


    I also think that you have excellent resources to support your ideas about communication. Great job on that! I had similar thoughts, but without the resources, I didn’t manage to say it the way you did. It’s true that email has become the standard form of communication for many things. I have learned, however, that it doesn’t work for certain situations, or even for certain people. For example, if I need to get a hold of my principal at my school, I had better call his cell phone and ask him where he is and then go there, or else I will not be able to communicate what I need to say to him. I would be lucky to find him in his office, too, so calling him is a necessary step in the process of locating him so we can talk. Emails just get ignored, which reminds me of our media resources for our Walden course. Certain people just don’t like email and prefer face-to-face communication. Personally, I prefer email because it is convenient and I can mull over what I want to say and how I want to say it. For me, face-to-face conversations always go by too fast for me to have enough time to really think through what I want to say. I prefer to write my ideas down than to say them out loud. I feel I communicate more clearly that way. How about you?

    1. dstroup461 Post author

      Hello Amanda,
      I also prefer email and text message to talking face to face or on the phone. Unfortunately though, I believe my preference is based on the ability to multi-task instead of taking time to mull over my response. I have acquired some bad habits since moving into the instructional design world which this exercise helped to reinforce!

      Thank you for the comment.

  3. Stephanie DeVee

    I totally agree with you. The more communication we can have in person the better. With the advancement of technology it has made it even easier to have a face-to-face conversation no matter the distance between you. I also agree that you do have to be careful to remain in the moment, especially if you are using Webcam for Facetime to communicate as it is easy to be distracted by other things happening around you. Great post.


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