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Brief introduction
It's not always easy and often takes a lot of
determination. But making an effort to remove
the obstacles - tangible and intangible - that
stand in our way, can be the key to building
relationships that really work.
Many people think that communicating is easy.
It is after all something we've done all our lives.
There is some truth in this simplistic view.
Communicating is straightforward.
What makes it complex, difficult, and frustrating
are the barriers we put in the way:

1. Physical barriers

Physical barriers in the workplace include:
marked out territories, empires and fiefdoms into
which strangers are not allowed
closed office doors, barrier screens, separate
areas for people of different status
large working areas or working in one unit that is
physically separate from others.
2. Perceptual barriers

The problem with communicating with others is
that we all see the world differently. If we didn't,
we would have no need to communicate:
something like extrasensory perception would
take its place.
3. Emotional barriers

It is comprised mainly of fear, mistrust and
suspicion. The roots of our emotional mistrust of
others lie in our childhood and infancy when we
were taught to be careful what we said to others.
As a result many people hold back from
communicating their thoughts and feelings to
4. Cultural barriers

When we join a group and wish to remain in it,
sooner or later we need to adopt the behaviour
patterns of the group. These are the behaviours
that the group accept as signs of belonging.
The group rewards such behaviour through acts
of recognition, approval and inclusion. In groups
which are happy to accept you, and where you
are happy to conform, there is a mutuality of
interest and a high level of win-win contact.
Lack of cultural sensitivity
Culture comes in many shapes and sizes. It
includes areas such as politics, history, faith,
mentality, behaviour and lifestyle.
If businesses want to succeed internationally,
cultural sensitivity must be at the heart of
everything they do; from their personal
interaction and relationships with clients to the
products/services they develop.
All international communication is influenced by
cultural differences. Even the choice of medium
used to communicate may have cultural
For example, it has been noted that advanced
industrialized nations rely heavily on electronic
technology and emphasize written messages
over oral or face-to-face communication.
Certainly the United States, Canada and
Germany exemplify this trend.
But Japan, which has access to the latest
technologies, still relies more on face-to-face
communications than on the written mode.
High-context cultures (Mediterranean, Slav,
Central European, Latin American, African,
Arab, Asian, American-Indian) leave much of the
message unspecified - to be understood through
context, nonverbal cues, and between-the-lines
interpretation of what is actually said.
By contrast, low-context cultures (most of the
Germanic and English-speaking countries)
expect messages to be explicit and specific. The
former are looking for meaning and
understanding in what is not said - in body
language, in silences and pauses, and in
relationships and empathy.
Sequential or synchronic

Some cultures think of time sequentially - as a
linear commodity to "spend," "save," or "waste."
Other cultures view time synchronically - as a
constant flow to be experienced in the moment,
and as a force that cannot be contained or
Whether time is perceived as a commodity or a
constant determines the meaning and value of
being "on time." Think of the misunderstandings
that can occur when one culture views arriving
late for a meeting as bad planning or a sign of
Sequential culture
In sequential cultures (like North American,
English, German, Swedish, and Dutch),
businesspeople give full attention to one agenda
item after another. In many other parts of the
world, professionals regularly do several things
at the same time.
The American commoditization of time not only
serves as the basis for a "time is money"
mentality, it can lead to a fixation on timelines
that plays right into the hands of savvy
negotiators from other cultures.
Synchronic culture
In synchronic cultures (including South America,
southern Europe and Asia) the flow of time is
viewed as a sort of circle - with the past, present,
and future all inter-related.
Synchronistic cultures have an entirely different
perspective. The past becomes a context in
which to understand the present and prepare for
the future.

According to researchers only some cultures
supported expressing those feelings openly.
Emotional reactions were found to be least
acceptable in Japan, Indonesia, the U.K.,
Norway and the Netherlands - and most
accepted in Italy, France, the U.S. and
Reason and emotion are part of all human
communication. When expressing ourselves, we
look to others for confirmation of our ideas and
5. Language barriers

Language that describes what we want to say in
our terms may present barriers to others who
are not familiar with our expressions, buzz-
words and jargon. When we couch our
communication in such language, it is a way of
excluding others. In a global market place the
greatest compliment we can pay another person
is to talk in their language.
6. Gender barriers

There are distinct differences between the
speech patterns in a man and those in a woman.
A woman speaks between 22,000 and 25,000
words a day whereas a man speaks between
7,000 and 10,000.
To a woman, good listening skills include
making eye contact and reacting visually to the
speaker. To a man, listening can take place with
a minimum of eye contact and almost no
nonverbal feedback. (Women often cite a lack of
eye contact as evidence that their male boss
"doesn't value my input.")

Female superiority in reading nonverbal signals
during business meetings allows women to
accurately assess coalitions and alliances just
by tracking who is making eye contact with
whom at certain critical points.
Men are judged to be better at monologue -
women at dialogue.
A man's ability to hold his emotions in check and
to "keep a poker face" is viewed as an
advantage in business situations. A woman's
tendency to show her feelings more outwardly in
gestures and facial expressions is perceived as
a weakness.

In negotiations, men talk more than women and
interrupt more frequently. One perspective on
the value of speaking up comes from former
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who -
when asked what advice she had for up-and-
coming professional women - replied, "Learn to
Men make direct accusations (You didn't do it!)
while women use an indirect method (Why didn't
you do it?)

7. Interpersonal barriers

Withdrawal is an absence of interpersonal
contact. It is both refusal to be in touch and time
Rituals are meaningless, repetitive routines
devoid of real contact.
Pastimes fill up time with others in social but
superficial activities.
Working activities are those tasks which follow the
rules and procedures of contact but no more.
Games are subtle, manipulative interactions which
are about winning and losing. They include
"rackets" and "stamps".

Working on improving your communications is a
broad-brush activity. You have to change your
thoughts, your feelings, and your physical
That way, you can break down the barriers that
get in your way and start building relationships
that really work.
Agar M. Language shock: Understanding the culture of
conversation, New York: William Morrow, 1994.
Ashley A. A Handbook of Commercial
Correspondence, New Edition , Oxford University Press,
Coanc M., Magheruan V., Preda M. Practice in
Communication for Informatics, Editura Universitar,