Rules of Business Communication: Delivering Messages Appropriately
MBA 505 Business Communications
Dec 14, 2009
Rules provide a guide for individuals’ behavior and a means by which to predict the behavior of others, and they are a vital part of the social contracts that exist among individuals and between the individual and the group. According to Geertz (1973, cited in Schall 1983), culture can be described by listing a set of rules systematically, which if followed can enable one to pass for a native. One definition of culture describes it in terms of “sets of standards for perceiving, believing, evaluation, communicating and acting; those who share a set of cultural rules of social conduct, share a culture” (Goodenough, cited in Schall, 1983, p 558). Knowledge of rules is an essential step for successful interaction within a culture. The task of identifying general rules of business communication is a complex one, given that “organizational culture is characterized by universality and uniqueness” (Schall, 1983). A recent paper on the philosophical foundations of business ethics by Dresp-Langley (2009) considers ethical business communication from a social contract theory position, and seeks to identify a set of universally accepted ground rules for ethical communication in modern business contexts. Dresp-Langley proposes an extension of the social contract in the form of a contract for business communication, complete with ten ground rules, which are binding for all participants. Violations of these clauses may have results which impact on the satisfaction of the participants at the outcome of the communication event (e.g. meeting) – see figure 1.
Figure 1: The Communication Contract. Source: Dresp-Langley, 2009, p420)
1. Sincerity – all partners should communicate information honestly and to the best of their knowledge, and not deliberately falsify, omit or otherwise distort information that is relevant to the interaction. Breaches of the sincerity clause can generate complications based on incomplete or inaccurate information in the short term and severely damage the relationship between the partners in the long term. 2. Relevance – partners should speak with relevance to the topics and goals of the communication context. An obvious example of the relevance clause is the need for participants to respect the agenda of a meeting. Breaches of this clause would affect an individual’s ability to prepare and concentrate for the duration of the meeting, and create a feeling of being ‘taken by surprise’ or ‘caught off-guard’. 3. Continuity – communication should follow a cohesive pattern where participants take into account what others have said and respond, and where individuals do not suddenly express themselves spontaneously and out of context, whatever their whims. Breaches of this clause have a similar effect to the previous one. 4. Clarity – partners should express themselves as precisely and explicitly as possible. This includes avoidance of jargon with partners who do not use it. This clause encourages younger or inexperienced partners to ask questions and clarify their understanding. In a more diverse workplace, this clause also covers communication with colleagues in a foreign language, and so the choice of language, style and appropriateness are critical. Breaches of this clause would cause misunderstanding in the short term, and could potentially result in the exclusion of some partners in the long term. 5. Prudence – communicators should not handle information carelessly, and must always be aware of the consequences of speech acts. This refers to the sensitive and tactful handling of information, or the careful examination of the reliability of information before it is expressed as fact. Breaches of the prudence clause may have unintended effects on partners, for...
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