Friday, November 14, 2008

Not quite the END

In my 1st post, I talked about the importance of effective communication. It also encompassed my hopes of being able to reap those benefits that I have mentioned. Yet, as this module comes to an end, I have come to realize that having learnt so much during the course of the module have made me discovered that there is still so much that I do not know.

This module(The science of effective communication) has been extremely important in enabling us to consciously formulate the way we communicate, by teaching us how to determine appropriate communication channels, and choice of words(7Cs) how to react in situations such conflicts and cultural differences. It increases our awareness regarding the process of communication, such that now, I take special care in considering what I have learnt in the module when writing a professional writing.

These skills can help us avoid the pain of learning from grave mistakes and give us a head start to face the working world. Yet, at the end of the day, they are still tools. As much as a sculptor needs his tools, no work of art can be created without experienced hands behinds those tools. To me, what we have learnt are important skills, but it takes experience and practice to fully utilize those skills to achieve effective communication. Perhaps this is the reason why this module is called the SCIENCE of effective communication?

Communication is both a science and an art. Yet, the ‘art’ aspect of communication involves tacit knowledge which cannot be taught and can only be honed by practice.
There is still so much that I do not know, learning the art and science of effective communication will not end with the end of the module, it is going to be a lifelong process.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Earthworm 'eating' =)

I am Xueyuan, and I am pursuing an Honours degree in Life Science at NUS, in order to fulfill my childhood dream of being a Zoologist. I believe that every human being should have a raison d’ĂȘtre, and mine is to work with animals and nature, for the sake of animals and nature. As such, I have prepared myself by taking up an undergraduate research project, helping graduate students with their projects and doing extensive readings.

I also seek to develop myself in areas other than studies. In school, I have joined NUS Student’s Union (NUSSU)Rag and Flag as a dancer, TalentQuest, a national wide singing competition organized by NUS Science Club, as part of the programme organizing committee, and well as other activities including fund raising projects and print modeling.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


The world around you is a reflection, a mirror showing you the person you are. Show your best face to the mirror, and you’ll be happy with the face looking back at you.”

The process of doing this report has been enriching and enjoyable, thanks to three groups of people: my group members, my tutor and the rest of the classmates. Past encounters with awful project mates have taught me to appreciate good team players. Thank you, Weikin and Yu Ming, for being so. I hope that I have been a good team mate as well.

A good module owes its success to the efforts of the lecturers or tutors behind it. Thank you, Brad, for just the right amount of guidance, which keeps us in track and yet gives us room to explore and learn.

Sometimes it is hard to spot our own mistakes, thanks to all the classmates who have edited our report and survey for us.

When working as a team, I feel that communication is not just about presenting your ideas but also listening to other people’s ideas. It is also good to meet up face to face for discussions rather than communicating via the internet, to avoid misunderstandings. My team mates and I have tried our best to meet up as much as possible, but it is a pity that we are taking this module in our honours year, leaving us with vey little free time.

To say the truth, my communication skills with team mates have yet to been put to great test during the course of writing the report. The reasons could be because I am blessed with amiable team mates, and that we are working in a small group with people from similar background.

However, I have learnt a lot from the writing process, including my grammar, the formats for writing minutes and report. Four years of scientific training often allow students to be proficient at scientific writing but are handicapped in other forms of writing. Even the writing of the survey report is different from the usual scientific reports. I am glad to have the chance to learn something different and useful, which I would otherwise not learn as a science student.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Intercultural Differences-- An experience in Thailand

This took place several years ago when I was doing the Youth Expedition Project in Thailand, Chiang Mai. During our stay in the village, we had a pair of guides from the village, who were husband and wife, to serve as a bridge between the villagers, the village head and us.

On our second day there, they volunteered to drive a few of us to town to do our grocery shopping. In the supermarket, we were happily placing bread into the trolley but were stopped by our guides (we called them Pii Ann and Pii Tom, Pii being a respectful term used for somebody who is older than you). Pi Tom told us that the bread was expensive and that we should have bought bread from the village instead. In fact, we did not mind paying a little bit more for the bread for the sake of convenience; moreover it was also cheaper than what we paid for in Singapore. However out of respect for his opinion and business opportunities for the villagers, we agreed to buy bread of dubious origins from the village instead (it turned out to be pretty fresh and tasty).

As cooked food cannot be readily bought from the village (we have to cook our own meals), we wanted to buy some cup noodles for anybody who might be hungry between or after meals. However, our guides looked unhappy and said that we were being very wasteful. From our point of view, we felt that we have been thrifty as we picked the ones that were among the cheapest in the supermarket.

From this simple incident, I have observed a few cross-cultural differences, with the most obvious difference being the concept of thrift. There is a Chinese saying that “thrift is a virtue”. I have always thought that being a Chinese and an Asian, we are generally thrifty. Moreover, being budget-constrained students, I thought that my friends and I had been thriftier than the average Singaporeans. I realized that thrift is only a relative concept, affected by not only our values (assuming that my guides viewed thrift as a virtue too) but also our differences in standard of living and expectations.

Thais are generally polite and non confrontational. I feel that the reason why they were willing to show their disapproval in front of us was because we were only 17 years old then, and were viewed as youths/children whom they felt responsible to educate. However, even when they expressed their unhappiness, they never failed to wear their smiles. Over half a month that I’ve spent with the villagers, I have learnt that it is important to look closely at their smiles so as to decipher the meaning behind the different smiles.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cruel Mercy

“Look mummy, there is a tortoise! A tortoise!” Cried a child excitedly as he throws a piece of bread into the water. Most probably, what the child saw was a red-eared slider, a North American terrapin found commonly in local pet shops. How did the terrapins end up in our parks and reservoirs? This happens when the young terrapins outgrow their ‘cuteness’ and start biting their owners, become too big for their tanks or produce bad odour due to their waste.

Due to irresponsibility or ignorance, many animals are abandoned once they have outgrown their cuteness. Some people release them for religious merit making, failing to realize that their apparent act of mercy is instead an extreme act of cruelty. It was estimated that 90% of the animals being released died within the day of release, being unable to adapt to the environment. For those that were found alive, many were found with skin diseases, suffered malnutrition or had broken limbs. The few species that manage to adapt and thrive in our environment feed on our native animals, compete with them for food or introduce diseases to them. This can lead to extinction of local animals. Some of them, such as the freshwater stingrays found in Seletar reservoir and the snapping turtle found recently in Mac Ritchie can kill and amputate fingers of human beings respectively.

Research Question
I am interested to find out how much people who are residing in Singapore know about the harmful effects of releasing animals into the wild and their stand on this practice.

Reason for Attitudinal Survey
The issue regarding the release of non-native animals into reserv
oirs, parks and even nature reserves had been brought up repeatedly on news programs and newspapers. Yet, many invasive species are still being found in the wild, especially shortly before or after Vesak day. It is important to find out the awareness level and public opinions to enable suitable awareness campaigns to be made to curb such cruel and harmful practices.



American bullfrog.

Red-eared slider.,R

African clawed frog

Friday, August 29, 2008

Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

When I was in junior college, I had to do a project as part of the entry requirements to enter local universities. One of the girls, Alice (a pseudonym), who was assigned to my group, had absolutely no intention of getting enrolled into a local university. As a result, she was apathetic towards the project, always arriving late, leaving early or not showing up for meetings at all. Our group leader, an extremely enthusiastic girl, was upset with
her attitude and had several arguments with her during our meetings. Although I disapprove of Alice’s attitude, I felt that there was no need to argue with her as long as she gets her part done in time for submission. Naturally, this was not a great solution because we ended up having very little rapport with Alice. Possibly, this lack of rapport led to a vicious cycle, which made Alice even more unwilling to turn up for meetings, leading to even less rapport.

In addition to a grade given for the group, grades were also given to the individual based on their contributions, including the articles that we had contributed to the project. We made regular submission of our project file to the teacher-in-charge for grading. There was once when my printer was not working and Alice volunteered to print the articles for me. However, she came without the articles that I sent her, claiming that she could not print them. Thus, I ended up submitting only the articles that I had at hand. When the project file was returned to us, I looked at it and realized she had placed the articles that I sent her under her own name! I was scandalized by such blatant act of theft.

Finally, our patience was stretched to the limits and we approached our teacher-in-charge for help. We even showed her ‘evidences’ of her poor attitude, such as the irresponsible remarks she made on our msn discussions and her poor attendances. To our dismay, instead of guiding us, she viewed such conflicts as unnecessary and gave a poor grade for the group.

I was extremely horrified by that incident at that point of time, for I felt that even if I had failed to handle the situation in the best possible manner, it was still unfair to my group leader and I to be marked down due to an irresponsible group member. I have learnt how to handle such situations better now, although I am still not proficient at it. I really hope for some enlightening inputs on how you would handle such situation if you were in my shoes! =)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Importance of effective communication

Being highly social animals, human communicate with one another to convey emotions and danger, to build relationships and to maintain social order. Since infancy, we have been developing communicative skills by crying and smiling at the right moment to achieve what we want. Not much have changed even as we reached adulthood. However, ideas and needs have become more complex and thus more effective communication is needed to convey such messages.

Effective communication is needed to prevent misunderstandings. A criticism from a superior to a subordinate can have drastically different effect depending on the choice of words used. Consider “You did a horrible job” as compared to “this piece of work can be improved”, which criticism would the subordinate more willing to accept? Often, we make the mistake of assuming that others understand exactly what we are trying to convey. However, this is often not so. How often has a woman drop hints about a birthday wish only to be met with disappointment?

Effective communication is also needed to express ideas and thoughts. A scientific hypothesis or design require funding and support of others in the field, and even members of the public to make it into a reality. However brilliant your ideas, they are worthless unless you can make people agree with you.

Moreover, effective communication can boost self-esteem. One who is able to communicate his thoughts effectively tends to be more confident when meeting people and sharing ideas.

There is hardly any aspect of life that does not require communicative skills. Communicative skills are required to maintain and form human relationships, including: parent and child, husband and wife, superior and subordinate, between friends, colleagues, and even countries. By maintaining good relationships, we can avoid hostility, receive aids, support and even promotions more easily. Maintaining good human relationships are practically essential for the survival of a human being. (Edited)