Barriers To Communication

There will be instance when you are talking to someone and they misunderstood what you are saying. One would have come across such situations many times in his/her life.

This is because at any time in the communication process a barrier can occur, it is the barrier that avoids people from understanding other person ideas or thoughts. Barriers can occur at any point of the communication loop.

Barriers are of two types –– internal and external.

Examples of internal barriers are fatigue, poor listening skills, attitude toward the sender or the information, lack of interest in the message, fear, mistrust, past experiences, negative attitude, problems at home, lack of common experiences, and emotions. Examples of external barriers include noise, distractions, e-mail not working, bad phone connections, time of day; sender used too many technical words for the audience, and environment.

Barriers prevent the intended message from reaching to the receiver correctly, so while communicating one must monitor the actions of the receiver. Watch the body language to ensure the message is received correctly.

Some of the barriers to communication are:

1. Psychological

This related to perceptual biases or stereotypes that impact how an individual interprets a particular person’s message. Different people respond in different ways. Stereotyping is one such example. It is when we assume that the other person has certain characteristics based on the group to which he/she belongs.

2. Semantic

This is used to describe situations where language or cultural differences distort or interfere with the actual meaning of the message. Given that dramatic differences exist across cultures in terms of approaches to time, space, and privacy; the opportunities for misinterpretation when we are in cross-cultural situations are plentiful.

Effective communication requires deciphering and understanding the basic values, motives, and assumptions of the other person.

3. Environment

It refers to a wide range of factors which either encourage or inhibit interactions,  these include, room size, distanced between the two, layout of the furniture, heating and lightning, etc…

4. Demographic

Factors such as gender and age can impact on the way in which a message is interpreted. For example, a male listener may nod his head to indicate to the speaker ‘I agree’, whereas a female listener may nod her head to communicate ‘I am listening’ (but not necessarily agreeing); so sending the same visible feedback but with different actual meanings (Stewart and Logan, 1998).

5. Disability

Physical or neurological impairment as well as psychiatric illness can call for alternative means to the usual patterns of communication to be adopted. Some examples include sight or hearing loss, and conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or severe depression (Hargie et al, 2004).

6. Organizational

Barriers to effective communication can be located within the organization or agency itself. Difficulties with established lines and means of communication, different relative physical location of staff, lack of team or supervision meetings, and under resourced supervisors are factors that can impact negatively on effective communication.

One cannot avoid all the noise in the communication process, however one has to be aware of noise that exists to minimize its impact


Dickson, 1999


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