Communication Barriers refers to any interference, gap, distortion that may prevent the communicating parties to interact and understand each other effectively. Communication barriers may be in form of a physical walls, technical glitches, organizational policies or psychological issues.
Communication is an art which gets better with practice. It requires a lot of conscious effort to understand the manner in which one must communicate. Such learning must encompass the right timing and environment to communicate the right message. Many factors act as barriers to effective communication, some of these communication barriers are:
- Language, Grammar and Semantic Barriers – Communication becomes difficult when people trying to communicate do not know a common language. Even when two people share a common language, improper usage of grammar and semantics (study of meanings) leads to communication problems. Hence the sender must choose his words very carefully and encode the message in a manner that is easily and correctly understood by the receiver.
- Psychological Barriers – Motivation, attitude, perception and other psychological attributes of person may influence the way a person interprets a message. Highly motivated individuals with positive attitude are empathetic listeners and may perceive bad news as an opportunity to do better. Low self-esteem and low confidence levels make people snug into their shells when it comes to communication. People who feel their communication skills are bad tend to have inferiority complex which will deteriorate their communication levels further. Lack of knowledge on the subject matter also creates fear in the minds of people and pulls them back psychologically from communicating freely.
- Physical Barriers – Physical objects, people or distance may make it difficult for the communicating parties to communicate effectively.
- Organizational Barriers – Communication may be restricted due to the rules, regulation, reporting chain and guidelines laid down by the organization. For e.g. Union workers may not be allowed to directly talk to the management but can communicate only through union leaders. In such a case, grievances of the workers may not reach the management or management may receive incomplete information.
- Personal Barriers – People who are differently abled may face communication problems by virtue of their physical condition.
- Cultural Barriers – Culture of the people may restrict them to be part of some conversations. Also the same words, phrases, symbols, colours, actions, gestures may mean different things to people belonging from different cultures. While some countries encourage calling people by their second name as respect, some countries prefer the respect to be shown by calling people by their first name.
- Technological Barriers – Oral Communication and Written communication majorly take place via use of communication technologies like phones, tv, radio, emails etc. any technical fault may hamper effective communication.
- Social Barriers – A person`s ability to communicate also depends upon his status in the society, family background, designation, social class etc. People who are status conscious many times develop a superiority complex and prefer to communicate with people belonging to their social class and refrain from communicating with people they feel are inferior.
Other Communication Barriers
- Wrong Assumptions – It is always a good practice to understand the complete picture before falling into conclusions. Particularly when it comes to a business scenario, assuming things many a times spoils the complete plan. For instance, when a customer wants to meet you, it is important that you understand the venue where he wants the meeting to happen, the agenda of the meeting, travel arrangements etc. The customer might have been under the impression that pick up would have been arranged for him. Assuming that he will reach the venue of the meeting making his own travel arrangements may lead to confusions.
- Noise – It refers to any interference that prevents sound signals from reaching the receiver properly. It may be noise due to machines in a factory, or distortion in TV, Radio or Telephone signals that hamper oral communication.
- Lack of Planning – An unplanned, unstructured message, delivered at an inappropriate time hampers effective communication.
- Selective Perception – When the receiver selectively sees and hears information according to his own needs, background, expectations, motivation, experience etc. and filters out information depending upon his own interests it is known as selective perception.
- Information Overload – When people are loaded with too much information, they are bound to make errors. Too much information may bore or frustrate a reader leading to misunderstanding and improper feedback.
- Poor listening and retention – Poor retention or listening on the part of the receiver, spoils the very essence of communication. The receiver lacking these skills loose interest very easily and retain incomplete information.
- Conflicts in terms of understanding – An organization comprises of various Department which work in conjunction to achieve a common goal. Common goals are generally split into simpler ones so each Department can be assigned tasks relevant to them. When the split up goals are unclear and are divergent to the common goal, conflict in interest is caused. This results in communication breakdown.
- Change Management and time gaps – Different people accommodate to changes in different ways. The time period taken to accommodate any type of change also differs from one person to another. Any communication that happens during the change management sequence may not be well received by all concerned creating communication breakdowns. This time gap acts as one of the major barriers to effective communication in business scenario.
- Transmission loss of communication – The general tendency of communication is to lose the original essence as it passes many ears and mail boxes. The more the transmission happens, the more diluted the communication becomes. Frequency of transmission thus acts as one of the major barrier to effective communication.
- Offensive Style – An offensive style of speaking makes the receiver defensive or impatient and may lead to poor relations between the communicating parties.
- Filtering – If the sender manipulates the information communicated in a way that it seems favorable to the receiver, it is termed as filtering. In order to impress the superiors, employees may ignore or choose to omit some valuable information which leads to ineffective communication.
Overcoming communication barriers
Communication barriers stop people from developing their current skill sets as well as acquiring new skill sets. Some easy ways to overcome communication barriers are given below which can be consciously practiced on a day to day business scenario.
- Consciously avoid wrong or negative perceptions
- Practice to listen empathetically, patiently and effectively
- Use appropriate language, channel of communication, mode and time for communication
- Encourage open communication to overcome communication gaps
- Understand and perceive things in the way they are being communicated by asking questions for clarity whenever required
- Drop egoistic individualism to understand issues in the right sense
- Consciously avoid getting into an inferiority or superiority complex mode
- Ensure proper planning before communicating a message
- Constantly work on improving your vocabulary and learn to use appropriate words in the right places
- Strive hard to create an environment that is highly synergistic
- Understand the receiver and his emotions while receiving the communication
- Create an environment that will foster transparent communication
- Encourage people to participate in two way communication
- Practice and implement effective use of sign and body language