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Barriers to Effective Communication

Part of our: CommunicationSkills library.

There are many reasons why interpersonal communications may fail. In many communications, the message (what is said) may not be received exactly the way the sender intended. It is, therefore, important that the communicator seeks feedback to check that their message is clearly understood. The skills of Active Listening, Clarification andReflection may help but the skilled communicator also needs to be aware of the barriers to effective communication and how to avoid or overcome them.
Thereare manybarriersto communicationand thesemayoccurat any stagein the communication process. Barriersmayleadto yourmessagebecomingdistortedand youthereforerisk wasting bothtimeand/ormoneyby causingconfusionand misunderstanding. Effectivecommunication involvesovercomingthesebarriersand conveyinga clear andconcisemessage.

CommonBarriersto EffectiveCommunication:

The use of jargon. Over-complicated, unfamiliar and/or technical terms. Emotionalbarriersandtaboos. Some people may find it difficult to express their emotions and some topics may be completely 'off-limits' or taboo. Lackof attention,interest,distractions,or irrelevanceto the receiver. (See our page Barriersto EffectiveListeningfor more information). Differencesin perceptionandviewpoint. Physicaldisabilitiessuchas hearingproblemsor speechdifficulties. Physicalbarriersto nonverbal communication. Not being able to see the non-verbal cues, gestures, posture and general body language can make communication less effective. Languagedifferencesandthe difficultyin understandingunfamiliaraccents.

Expectationsandprejudiceswhichmayleadto falseassumptionsor stereotyping. People often hear what they expect to hear rather than what is actually said and jump to incorrect conclusions. Culturaldifferences. The norms of social interaction vary greatly in different cultures, as do the way in which emotions are expressed. For example, the concept of personal space varies between cultures and between different social settings.

A skilledcommunicatormustbe awareof thesebarriersand try to reducetheir impactby continuallycheckingunderstandingand by offeringappropriatefeedback.

A Categorisationof Barriersto Communication

Clearly, language and linguistic ability may act as a barrier to communication. However, even when communicating in the same language, the terminology used in a message may act as a barrier if it is not fully understood by the receiver(s). For example, a message that includes a lot of specialist jargon and abbreviations will not be understood by a receiver who is not familiar with the terminology used. Regional colloquialisms and expressions may be misinterpreted or even considered offensive. See our page: EffectiveSpeakingfor more information.

The psychological state of the receiver will influence how the message is received. For example, if someone has personal worries and is stressed, they may be preoccupied by personal concerns and not as receptive to the message as if they were not stressed. Stress management is an important personal skill that affects our interpersonal relationships. See our pages Whatis Stress?and Avoiding Stress for more information. Anger is another example of a psychological barrier to communication, when we are angry it is easy to say things that we may later regret and also to misinterpret what others are saying. See our pages: Whatis Anger? , AngerManagementand AngerManagementTherapyfor more information. More generally people with low self-esteem may be less assertive and therefore may not feel comfortable communicating - they may feel shy about saying how they really feel or read negative sub-texts into messages they hear. Visit our pages on ImprovingSelfEsteemand Assertivenessfor more information.

Physiological barriers may result from the receivers physical state: for example, a receiver with reduced hearing may not grasp to entirety of a spoken conversation especially if there is significant background noise.

An example of a physical barrier to communication is geographic distance between the sender and receiver(s). Communication is generally easier over shorter distances as more communication channels are available and less technology is required. Although modern technology often serves to reduce the impact of physical barriers, the advantages and disadvantages of each communication channel should be understood so that an appropriate channel can be used to overcome the physical barriers.

Systematic barriers to communication may exist in structures and organisations where there are inefficient or inappropriate information systems and communication channels, or where there is a lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities for communication. In such organisations, individuals may be unclear of their role in the communication process and therefore not know what is expected of them.

Attitudinal barriers are behaviours or perceptions that prevent people from communicating effectively. Attitudinal barriers to communication may result from personality conflicts, poor management, resistance to change or a lack of motivation. Effective receivers of messages should attempt to overcome their own attitudinal barriers to facilitate effective communication.

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4 different types of barriers to effective communication

by Saritha Pujari Business

For the convenience of study the different barriers can be divided into four parts: (1) Semantic Barriers There is always a possibility of misunderstanding the feelings of the sender of the message or getting a wrong meaning of it. The words, signs, and figures used in the communication are explained by the receiver in the light of his experience which creates doubtful situations. This happens because the information is not sent in simple language.

The chief language-related barriers are as under: (i) Badly Expressed Message: ecause of the obscurity of language there is always a possibility of wrong interpretation of the messages. This barrier is created because of the wrong choice of words, in civil words, the wrong se!uence of sentences and fre!uent repetitions. This may be called linguistic chaos. (ii) Symbols or ords !ith "ifferent Meanings:

" symbol or a word can have different meanings. #f the receiver misunderstands the communication, it becomes meaningless. For example, the word $value% can have different meanings in the following sentences: &a' (hat is the value of computer education these days) &b' (hat is the value of this mobile set) &c' *alue our friendship. (iii) #aulty Translation: " manager receives much information from his superiors and subordinates and he translates it for all the employees according to their level of understanding. +ence, the information has to be moulded according to the understanding or environment of the receiver. #f there is a little carelessness in this process, the faulty translation can be a barrier in the communication. (i$) %nclarified &ssumptions: #t has been observed that sometimes a sender ta,es it for granted that the receiver ,nows some basic things and, therefore, it is enough to tell him about the major subject matter. This point of view of the sender is correct to some extent with reference to the daily communication, but it is absolutely wrong in case of some special message, ($) Technical 'argon: -enerally, it has been seen that the people wor,ing in an enterprise are connected with some special technical group who have their separate technical language. Their communication is not so simple as to be understood by everybody. +ence, technical language can be a barrier in communication. This technical group includes industrial engineers, production development manager, !uality controller, etc. ($i) Body (anguage and )esture "ecoding: (hen the communication is passed on with the help of body language and gestures, its misunderstanding hinders the proper understanding of the message. For example, moving one%s nec, to reply to a !uestion does not indicate properly whether the meaning is $.es% or $/o%.

(*) +sychological or Emotional Barriers The importance of communication depends on the mental condition of both the parties. " mentally disturbed party can be a hindrance in communication. Following are the emotional barriers in the way of communication: (i) +remature E$aluation: Sometimes the receiver of information tries to dig out meaning without much thin,ing at the time of receiving or even before receiving information, which can be wrong. This type of evaluation is a hindrance in the exchange of information and the enthusiasm of the sender gets dampened. (ii) (ac, of &ttention: (hen the receiver is preoccupied with some important wor, he0she does not listen to the message attentively. For example, an employee is tal,ing to his boss when the latter is busy in some important conversation. #n such a situation the boss may not pay any attention to what subordinate is saying. Thus, there arises psychological hurdle in the communication. (iii) (oss by Transmission and +oor -etention: (hen a message is received by a person after it has passed through many people, generally it loses some of its truth. This is called loss by transmission. This happens normally in case of oral communication. Poor retention of information means that with every next transfer of information the actual form or truth of the information changes. "ccording to one estimate, with each transfer of oral communication the loss of the information amounts to nearly 123. This happens because of the carelessness of people. Therefore, lac, of transmission of information in its true or exact form becomes a hindrance in communication. (i$) "istrust: For successful communication the transmitter and the receiver must trust each other. #f there is a lac, of trust between them, the receiver will always derive an opposite meaning from the message. ecause of this, communication will become meaningless. (.) /rganisational Barriers 4rganisational structure greatly affects the capability of the employees as far as the communication is concerned. Some major organisational hindrances in the way of communication are the following: (i) /rganisational +olicies: 4rganisational policies determine the relationship among all the persons wor,ing in the enterprise. For example, it can be the policy of the organisation that communication will be in the written form. #n

such a situation anything that could be conveyed in a few words shall have to be communicated in the written form. 5onse!uently, wor, gets delayed. (ii) -ules and -egulations: 4rganisational rules become barriers in communication by determining the subject6matter, medium, etc. of communication. Troubled by the definite rules, the senders do not send some of the messages. (iii) Status: 7nder organising all the employees are divided into many categories on the basis of their level. This formal division acts as a barrier in communication especially when the communication moves from the bottom to the top. For example, when a lower6level employee has to send his message to a superior at the top level there is a lur,ing fear in his mind that the communication may be faulty, and because of this fear, he cannot convey himself clearly and in time. #t delays the decision ma,ing. (i$) 0omplexity in /rganisational Structure: The greater number of managerial levels in an organisation ma,es it more complex. #t results in delay in communication and information gets changed before it reaches the receiver. #n other words, negative things or criticism are concealed. Thus, the more the number of managerial levels in the organisation, the more ineffective the communication becomes. ($) /rganisational #acilities: 4rganisational facilities mean ma,ing available sufficient stationery, telephone, translator, etc. (hen these facilities are sufficient in an organisation, the communication will be timely, clear and in accordance with necessity. #n the absence of these facilities communication becomes meaningless. (1) +ersonal Barriers The above6mentioned organisational barriers are important in themselves but there are some barriers which are directly connected with the sender and the receiver. They are called personal barriers. From the point of view of convenience, they have been divided into two parts: (a) Barriers -elated to Superiors: These barriers are as follo!s: (i) #ear of 0hallenge of &uthority:

8verybody desires to occupy a high office in the organisation. #n this hope the officers try to conceal their wea,nesses by not communicating their ideas. There is a fear in their mind that in case the reality comes to light they may have to move to the lower level, (ii) (ac, of 0onfidence in Subordinates: Top6level superiors thin, that the lower6 level employees are less capable and, therefore, they ignore the information or suggestions sent by them. They deliberately ignore the communication from their subordinates in order to increase their own importance. 5onse!uently, the self6confidence of the employees is lowered. (b) Barriers -elated to Subordinates: Subordinates-related barriers are the follo!ing: (i) %n!illingness to 0ommunicate: Sometimes the subordinates do not want to send any information to their superiors. (hen the subordinates feel that the information is of negative nature and will adversely affect them, an effort is made to conceal that information. #f it becomes imperative to send this information, it is sent in a modified or amended form. Thus, the subordinates, by not clarifying the facts, become a hindrance in communication, (ii) (ac, of +roper 2ncenti$e: 9ac, of incentive to the subordinates creates a hindrance in communication. The lac, of incentive to the subordinates is because of the fact that their suggestions or ideas are not given any importance. #f the superiors ignore the subordinates, they become indifferent towards any exchange of ideas in future.

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:'. NOISE - When a person is communicating to another and someone or something makes noise , then the communication process fails. ;.' P+.S#5"9 945"T#4/ 6 (hen teams are spread across the world and diverse teams are created. 1.' P44< 8=7#P>8/T 6 /ot having the right #T infrastructure, slow computers, poor !ualityaudio teleconference systems ma,ing it difficult to hear what is being said? @.' 9"/-7"-8 6 Spea,ing in different languages, or where a language is not your first language. This also applies to every industry that has its own acromyns and meanings for their e!uipment, tools and techn!ues they use? A.' 579T7<8 6 Spealing the same language but words having different meaning in different

countries, e.g 7B 8nglish and 7S" 8nglish have different words for rubber0eraser? C.' 4<-"/#S"T#4/"9 6 inappropriate chains of commenad and reporting structures inbusiness organisations? D.' "TT#T7E#/"9 6 Eissatisfaction, the disli,e of change, of management or the environment? F.' 47TE"T8E #/F4<>"T#4/ 6 People using different document versions, and not spea,ing off the same song sheet? G.' P8<58PT#4/ 6 4ne message has two or more different meanings when spo,en or put into an email. Eifferent levels of education and experience can also be a communicatons barrier? :2.' P8<S4/"9#T. 6 Personal li,es and disli,es, and people having selective hearing on boring subjects or boring spea,ers

10 Barriers to Effective Communication


Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again. - Andr Gide (French author and
winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 19 !"#

$ometimes% somewhere between the moment communication becomes bro'en#

someone s&ea's and another res&onds%

(e)*e all been there# A con*ersation% or e*en an online chat or strin+ of mobile te,ts% leads to a terrible misunderstandin+ and all of a sudden all ho&es for reachin+ an a+reement +o ri+ht out the window#

What happened?
noise% &oor

Most Common Barriers to Effective Communication

1. Physical Barriers: this has to do with &oor or outdated e-ui&ment used durin+ communications% bac'+round li+htin+% tem&eratures that are too hot or too cold#

2. Attitudes: emotions li'e an+er or sadness can taint ob.ecti*it/# Also bein+ e,tremel/ ner*ous% ha*in+ a &ersonal a+enda or 0needin+ to be ri+ht no matter what1 can ma'e communications less than effecti*e# 2his is also 'nown as 03motional Noise1#

. !an"ua"e: this can seem li'e an eas/ one% but e*en &eo&le s&ea'in+ the same lan+ua+e can ha*e difficult/ understandin+ each other if the/ are from different +enerations or from different re+ions of the same countr/# $lan+% &rofessional .ar+on and re+ional collo-uialisms can e*en hurt communicators with the best intentions# #. Physiolo"ical Barriers: ill health% &oor e/esi+ht or hearin+ difficulties% &ain# $. Pro%lems &ith 'tructure (esi"n: com&anies or institutions can ha*e or+anization structures that are not clear% which can ma'e communications difficult# Also to blame for fault/ communications are bad information s/stems% and lac' of su&er*ision or trainin+ of the &eo&le in*ol*ed# ). Cultural *oise: &eo&le sometimes ma'e stereot/&ical assum&tions about others based on their cultural bac'+round#

+. !ac, of Common E-perience: it)s a +reat idea to use e,am&les or stories to e,&lain a &oint that is bein+ discussed# 4owe*er% if the s&ea'er and the audience cannot relate to these e,am&les because the/ do not ha*e the same 'nowled+e or ha*e not shared the same e,&eriences then this tool will be ineffecti*e#

.. Am%i"uity and A%stractions /veruse: lea*in+ thin+s half-said% usin+ too man/ +eneralizations% &ro*erbs or sa/in+s% can all lead to communications that are not clear and that can lend

themsel*es to misinter&retations# 0. 1nformation /verload: it ta'es time to &rocess a lot of information and too man/ details can o*erwhelm and distract the audience from the im&ortant to&ics# 5ee& it $im&le% $weetie# 12. Assumptions and 3umpin" to Conclusions: 2his can ma'e someone reach a decision about somethin+ before listenin+ to all the facts# All of these barriers to effecti*e communication can either distract those in*ol*ed or otherwise hinder /our communications# 6a'e sure the/)re not in the wa/ of ma'in+ /our &oint cr/stal-clear7