Reflection: Interpersonal Communication Problem

The situation I faced was a minor interpersonal communication problem during a specific sales transaction over the mobile application ‘Carousell’ last week. ‘Carousell’ is a platform where sellers list their new or preloved items online and interested buyers can purchase them. Basically, I was keen on buying a pair of boots from this specific foreign Chinese middle-aged seller and initiated the conversation purchase. Despite some language communication difficulty due to improper sentence structures, massive usage of acronyms and grammatical errors, the deal went through and we arranged to meet at Ang Mo Kio MRT station at 5pm that fateful Tuesday right after classes.

As I was making my way to the rendezvous, she texted me (in broken English) to remind me to bring the exact change and insisted that I do not exit the ticket concourse area. Hastily, I replied to inform her that I did not have the exact change and needed to exit to withdraw more cash. I was not exactly sure if she understood my message, but much to my surprise, she strongly advised me against exiting the concourse and she did not explain the rationale behind it.

Instead, she kindly offered me a $3 cash discount so that I do not need to exit the ticket concourse area at level 1.

It seems rather obvious that there is a definite interpersonal communication barrier between myself and the seller due to different English language literacy, so how else could the communication between us be improved instead?

Updated as at 19/02/2017.


11 thoughts on “Reflection: Interpersonal Communication Problem

  1. Thank you for sharing this very personal incident, Hazel. You provide lots of details. My only suggestion is that you restate the question in a more focused manner that would result in a more appropriate answer in terms of a reader response for better interpersonal action. That means that you need to imagine how the reader is going to respond and develop a more specific question accordingly.

    Do you understand?


  2. Hi Hazel,

    This is indeed a strange happening and I really like how you describe it in this detailed manner. Your writing helps me in understanding the whole picture better.

    So to answer your question, I would state my opinion in my point of view. If I were to stand in your shoes, I would have been frustrated (honest) reading through her texts. Instead of continuing the online text message, I would try to get her contact number from her and if she is okay with it, I will just get on the traditional way of communication with her; a simple phone call.

    Sometimes not everyone is good at expressing themselves over words or texts, I am one of them. A phone call to talk things through might be a viable solution, and exhausting all options to try to get your points and communication across is sometimes a tiring but worthwhile process.

    Warmest Regards,
    Jenson Seah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jenson,

      Appreciate the suggestion there 🙂 I have to agree that for my situation, probably a phone call in Mandarin would have been more effective as a communication channel and would save the hassle in interaction.

      In the future, where such situation arises again, I’ll be sure to obtain their contact number and liaise via a different channel of communication as deemed necessary to prevent miscommunication or confusion.

      Hazel Lim


  3. Hi Hazel,

    You have depicted the incident in detail, and it is easy to read and understand. Being also a Carousell shopper, I have encountered the similar situation as you, having communication barriers with sellers as well. I have once dealt with a lady from the Philippines and I could not really understand her. I think the only way to handle such situation is to be patient and try to get your message across clearly. Perhaps just as what Jenson had suggested, communicate through a phone call instead of a text message, as text messaging can be sometimes misleading.

    I guess she insisted on you not exiting the gantry was due to a law imposed that “no person shall for the purpose of any trade or business transfer any article or goods between the paid area and unpaid area unless the article or goods are taken by a person through a ticket gate”. Offenders may be removed from the stations or fined a maximum of S$2,000. This law was not made known to many of us, hence perhaps you are unaware of it as well.

    Nonetheless, as usual, I enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the good work! (;

    With regards,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jasmine!

      Thank you for the insights, I’m really glad to have learnt something new, as I wasn’t aware of such laws imposed with regards to transactions near the MRT gantry. Big thank you for highlighting that, at least this explains her bizarre behaviour!

      Truth be told, although technology progresses really fast today with all the different applications and mobile texting, I have to agree with you that sometimes, maybe all it takes is just a simple phone call to ease communication understanding and to prevent miscommunication.

      Really appreciate your sharing and I do look forward to more mutual exchanges between us! 🙂

      Kind regards,
      Hazel Lim

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reflection:

    On hindsight, after assessing the situation once more and taking into consideration the feedback and insights from Brad, Jenson and Jasmine, I realised that I had taken mobile communication relatively for granted, assuming that everyone that I converse with online is similar to me in terms of language literacy. Prior to this incident, I had always assumed that text communication was the most effective because it proved as a substantial ‘black-and-white’ evidence to any message exchange especially when the situation is pertaining to commercial transactions. After this incident, I realised that in certain instances, all it requires is just a phone call communication exchange to prevent communication breakdown or confusion.

    In addition, applying what we learnt from the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Modes, I would have adopted the ‘collaborating’ mode, which requires plenty of teamwork and cooperation from both myself and the Carousell seller, executed through active listening over the phone call exchange to facilitate any clarification to any pending concerns from her end. This would have been helpful for both of us, and provides a mutual opportunity to correct any existing assumptions.

    Overall, with proper management and response to different kinds of interpersonal communication problem, we would be able to manage both personal and professional relationships better in general.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my reflection! 🙂


  5. Thanks for your excellent reflection, Hazel. You bring up some interesting assumptions, for instance about the effectiveness of texting, and you detail a more appropriate response using strategies discussed and learnt. Great effort!


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