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United States Postal Service

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The United States Postal Service has been in the business of communications for over 200 years. We handle well over 200 million pieces of mail every day. We also have a strong community presence due to the daily rounds of our carriers. People trust us with their vital personal communications every day of the year. A Christmas card to Grandma is just as important as business papers dealing with a million dollar corporate merger to us. The world of communication has been changed forever. The 21st century has seen greater advances in the field of communications than ever before. We are coming together globally in ways never seen before. Communication is the key to it all. I suppose it could be said that communication is our business. Interpersonal communications, as I have learned in this class, is defined as "one person interacting with another in a one-to-one basis, often in an informal, unstructured setting." It is in this manner that people deal with each other on a regular basis. It is not to be confused with intrapersonal communication which is the "communications that occurs within you; it involves thoughts, feelings and self-perception." In this paper, I will discuss gender and cultural impacts on communication, I will show how words can affect attitudes, behavior and perception, and I will identify barriers to effective communication.

Gender and Cultural Impacts

It is widely speculated that communication between the genders differs greatly. Numerous books have been written over the years concerning such topics in order to help men and women understand that they are from Mars and Venus but both have a taste for Chicken Soup. During class discussions concerning this subject, I have come to the conclusion that although women and men differ in communication techniques, the desired result is the same. Men are known to be methodical and precise with information exchange. By interfacing on a logical level, men tend to streamline the communication process. Less time is wasted on unnecessary details in this manner. Information is conveyed and then the next subject can be discussed. This is known as "report-talk". Women, on the other hand, are engines that run on emotions and feelings. Women interact with other women in the exact opposite way that men interact. The emotional process is equally or more important than the actual information being communicated. It is in this manner that women are able to communicate not only an event, but how said event made them feel or how they felt during the event. This process is known as "rapport-talk". The desire to convey information to a contemporary is critical in the quest for friendship and acceptance. The problems inherent in the way men and women communicate lie in the difference between the two communication types. Men do not usually understand the need to convey emotions during the exchange of information, and as such tend to leave such data out of the conversation when talking to a member of the opposite gender. Women usually cannot convey an idea in a discussion without the emotional aspect coming to bear, because of this, talking to a man in the "rapport-talk" fashion usually leaves the man in a state of annoyance due to the length of time it takes the woman to get to the point of the issue.

It takes good listening skills to overcome these issues that the sexes encounter. The best quality a man can gain to interface with a woman is empathy. Empathy is defined as "the ability to recognize and identify someone's feelings." This listening skill forces a man to ask themselves "how would I feel in this scenario?" By properly identifying and associating the feelings that accompany an event being discussed with a woman, a man is more likely to understand the woman's point of view and thereby able to communicate better. The best skill that a woman could gain in order to interface better with men would be the paraphrasing skill. Paraphrasing is "restating the other person's thoughts or feelings into your own words." IN this way, the men of "report-talk" would know that the women of "rapport-talk" are actually paying attention to the matter-of-fact discussion they are having, and trying to understand the concepts that are being conveyed. Although these methods are by no means the end solution to communication problems between the genders, they are not a bad place to start.

Intercultural communication has its share of problems as well. Thanks to technology, the world is becoming an increasingly small place. Due to misinformation and erroneous knowledge, intercultural communication can be wracked with problems. Things that may be fine to say or do in the United States could be construed as impolite elsewhere. For example, the "thumbs-up" gesture in the United States is an expression of goodwill or encouragement. In Iraq, however, it is an obscenity. The current wars in the Middle East have shown that improper intercultural communication can make the difference between being an ally and being an enemy. There have been numerous small offensive actions in that region that could have been prevented with better education of the surrounding culture. Simple things such as a left-handed handshake can mean the difference in cooperation and stonewalling in the need for information. People are more helpful when they are not being insulted. It is crucial in a globalized workplace to ensure that education takes place in order to stem the myriad of small infractions that can and usually occur. Cross-cultural research has become extremely important in this era of globalization, and may one day prove to be the standard to ensure that people of differing cultures are all treated fairly and without discrimination. An effective leader will consider racial and cultural differences when making workplace rules and edicts, and not conform to social norms when dealing with those of different backgrounds. For example, requiring a Muslim woman to remove her burqa just because a few narrow-minded coworkers refuse understand her religious background and follow the current mindset of Islamic distrust that is so prevalent in American society since 9/11. Communication is a key factor in understanding another person's cultural norms and practices. All too common are workplace lawsuits that resulted from a lack of communication concerning a cultural misunderstanding.

The Power of Words

Working with the public on a daily basis, it is easy to see how words



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