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- Wong Yuen Han Alison
Hong Kong is known as a shopping paradise. “Service like this just isn’t good enough in today’s standard”, this is a popular slang said by Andy Lau used to describe poor service in Hong Kong. Conflict occurs may lead to poor service quality. Conflict is “an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scare rewards and interference from the other parties in achieving their goals”. (Ronald B. Adler 2006; George Rodman 2006) Following is an interpersonal conflict happened recently on me in a cupcake shop. I will analysis what are the possible causes of the conflict and a reflection on my communication skills.
I held a Christmas Party at home last year. One week before the Christmas Party was Saturday, I ordered 5 dozens of cupcakes from Natural Chiffon which located in Mong Kok. It required me paying full payment and damage deposit for renting dessert trays. “Please remember to bring along with this receipt with you return dessert trays. Otherwise, we will not return damage deposit to you.” salesperson reminded me after I paid all the payments and received the receipt. There were a crowd of people waiting for buying cupcakes, I left quickly.
On the party day, Natural Chiffon sent cupcakes and dessert trays to my home, everyone enjoyed and pleased with those cupcakes. After the party, I wrapped up all the dessert trays and readied to return back to Natural Chiffon. I was not free the day after the party. Therefore, I decided to return the trays two days after the party.
Two days after the party, I returned the dessert trays and the salesperson said, “Sorry, you are late for one day and you will be fined for $50.” I was shocked. I tried looking for any regulations posted in Natural Chiffon but there was not any notice posted. There was not any big wordings stated on the receipt that dessert trays should be returned within one day. Perhaps I did not recognize, they wrote the statement in small. However, the salesperson did not remind me that I should return the trays within one day when I was ordering or when they sent the cupcakes and dessert trays to my home. “Please ask your boss to look into this case.” I requested. “If you have any questions, please contact us through e-mail. According to our company regulation, I should collect $50 for the overdue.” said salesperson while she was serving next customer. There were lots of people waiting for and I did not want to argue with him. Therefore, I paid that $50 and left the shop.
There are mainly four possible causes that caused the conflict emerged.
Communication Models and Conflict Style
When I was making payment, the communication model between salesperson and I was in linear. After the salesperson reminded me to bring back the receipt in order to redeem back damage deposit, I left quickly. Salesperson was the speaker and I was a listener only. There was not any interaction between us as there was a crowd of people.
On the day when I returned dessert trays, our communication model had been changed to transactional model. Salesperson required me to make the overdue payment and I asked their boss to look into this case. Both of us were striving for our own interest. We were engaging in the sending and receiving of messages simultaneously. (Barnlund, D.C. 2008) Our conflict did not solve perfectly though our communication was in transactional model. However, we solved our problem by accommodating that is I am not okay, you are okay. Accommodators deal with conflict by giving in, putting the other’s needs ahead of their own. Self-sufficiency is low. (Ronald B. Adler 2006; George Rodman 2006) At that time, there were lots of people waiting for buying cupcakes. I did not want to argue with the salesperson and try to maintain harmony and peace. Therefore, I made the overdue payment and left the shop.
Our communication model changed from linear to transactional. Although we are at stage of transactional model, we solved our problem by accommodating instead of compromising as the salesperson declined my request.
Verbal communication can express abstract or concrete message in an easier manner. However, if we misinterpret the message, conflict will be caused. Allness thinking is “the tendency to decide we know everything about something or someone based on limited interactions or perceptions”. (Nicole Allaire 2009) The salesperson reminded me to bring along with the receipt and the damage deposit would be returned. There were lots of people at that moment, may be the salesperson was under pressure and forgot to remind me I should return the trays one day after the party. Therefore, I applied allness thinking that I could return the trays and collect the damage deposit at any time as long as I brought along with the receipt. The salesperson did not give enough information and I did not ask for further information, conflict emerged.
Nonverbal communication — message meaning are in people
Nonverbal communication is communication with gestures instead of words. Nonverbal communication can reveal your truth feeling towards something as it will be emitted without conscious awareness. Sometimes, nonverbal communication may contradict the meaning with verbal communication. When I requested their boss should look into this case, the salesperson was not looking at me and asked me sent an e-mail to their company if I had any questions. Though the salesperson answered me politely, there was no eye contact. Avoiding eye contact can be decoded as untruthful or not respecting to others. From my point of view, I thought the salesperson was not respecting me as I was angry with their unclear statement. From the salesperson point of view, maybe she was very busy with serving the next customer. His intention was to minimize the waiting time of other customer but not trying to disrespect me. Therefore, every gesture can be decoded into different meaning if we are standing at different positions with different feelings.
Cultural Influence — generation and gender stereotyping
People communicate with others may vary from one culture to another. From the outlook of the salesperson, she is a post 90s student. Nowadays, post 90s are symbolized their individualism is very strong. Personal goals are far more important than group goals. The salesperson’s goal is collect overdue payment from me. She should try to fulfill customer’s request or do the follow up later but not just asking me send an e-mail to contact with their company.
Gender stereotyping in Hong Kong is quite serious. Women should be elegant and keep silenced when they are in any situations. Therefore, I tried to avoid another conflict or argument with the salesperson. After she refused my request, I made the payment and left the shop. However, keeping silence or evading form an issue is not an appropriate way in solving problem.
Using wrong communication model, misinterpreting verbal and non-verbal communication, cultural influence and wrong style of solving conflict are the possible cause that the conflict emerged in this case.
Self-reflection on communication skills
Change our communication model
If the communication model between the salesperson and I was initially in transactional model, our conflict may not be occurred. Transactional model required us to be listener and speaker simultaneously. I should not only rely on her reminder but also ask for further information. If I further asked, “Is there any deadline for returning the dessert trays?” Usually most of salesperson will replied with a smile, “Sorry, I forget to inform you that the trays should be returned the day after we send it to your home. Thank you for reminding me.” Then conflict may be avoided.
Change our conflict style
From my point of view, out conflict style is accommodating. From the salesperson point of view, our conflict style is competing. Though win-win situation is the best, there is limited time to seek a win-win outcome. If the salesperson contacts with their boss to look into our conflict or giving , then our conflict style may be changed to compromising. One person is suggesting a solution that can meet each other half-way, another person try to fulfill or accept that advice.
Barnlund, D. C. (2008). A transactional model of communication. In. C. D. Mortensen (Eds.),Communication theory(2nd ed., pp47-57). New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction.
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