Barriers in Communication

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Communication is the basic need of humans, and in its simplest form, it may seem effortless and straightforward. The process of communication is made complex and frustrating by its various barriers that come into play. These barriers hinder the smooth flow of communication, which leads to conflicts of thoughts. 

What is Communication?

Communication is an integral instinct present in all living beings. To say it directly, communication is the exchange of information between two entities. Every action of ours can be seen as a means to communicate. This exchange is not necessarily in words only. It could be a gesture like a raised eyebrow or waving to a friend when you spot them in a crowd. Communication means sharing something with another person or a group of people.

Communication Barriers Definition

A communication barrier is anything that comes in the way of receiving and understanding messages that one sends to another to convey his ideas, thoughts, or any other kind of information. These various barriers of communication block or interfere with the message that someone is trying to send.

There are numerous barriers to effective communication that can come in the way. It happens because the message sent by the sender might not be understood exactly as it is meant to be. It can get distorted during the communication exchange. These different types of communication barriers can come at any stage in the process of communication. It can come because of the bias or stereotyping and generalization that exists in the workplace.

Types of Barriers To Communication

A skilled communicator must pay attention to the different types of barriers to effective communication and try to prevent them. These barriers of communication skills can be overcome by active listening, reflection, etc. The communicator must seek feedback from the receiver of the information to check if the message was understood in its true sense. Listed below are some of the common barriers to effective communication.

  • Using Jargon - If one uses unfamiliar terms or over-complicated technical terms, it could not be understood well.

  • Lack of Attention or Interest - If the message is irrelevant to the receiver or there are distractions around (like others speaking at the same time) then the message might not be communicated properly.

  • Perception Difference - If two people see things differently then their viewpoints might come in the way of deciphering the message correctly.

  • Physical Disabilities - If the receiver has hearing problems, or the speaker has speech disabilities, then communication will not be effective. It will distort the message.

  • Emotional Barriers - Sensitive topics make it difficult for the speaker or the receiver to engage properly in the communication exchange. It could also be that some people are not comfortable expressing themselves; hence their words might not reflect the true meaning of what they want to convey. Topics that may be taboo or off-limits for some people are politics, religion, mental or physical disabilities, racism, sexuality, and any other unpopular options.

  • The Difference in Culture - Social interactions have different norms in different cultures. For example, the idea of space exists in some cultures and social settings but not in the same form in others. These cultural differences could prevent effective communication.

  • Physical Barriers to Communication - A face-to-face communication has a lot of parts to the communication than just the words. Facial expressions, body language, gestures, etc. are also involved in the whole communication process. If you can’t see the person, then some messages might get lost. Text messages, phone calls, etc. are some of the technological ways of communicating which lack the effect of a personal meeting.

  • Language Difference - The difference in dialects of different regions or unfamiliar accents can make it difficult to understand the message sent.

  • Prejudices - Most people have preconceived notions about many things; hence they hear only what they want to listen, not what is being said. These false assumptions and stereotyping lead to barriers in communication.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How Can One Mitigate Some of The Barriers of Communication?

Some of the factors which can positively affect the communication process are as follows.

  • Active listening - This skill can be acquired and developed by practicing it. It involves fully listening to what is being said and not merely hearing the message passively.

  • Clarification - The listener can offer back to the speaker the meaning of what he or she has heard and understood. This is an important way to understand if what is being said is understood properly or not. Clarification becomes more important when there are difficult situations like sensitive emotions being discussed, etc.

  • Reflection - By reflection, it means to paraphrase and restate the feelings as well as words spoken by the speaker. Reflection shows the speaker that you are trying your best to perceive what they are saying and understand the message.

2. What Are The Different Kinds of Communication?

There are mainly 4 different types of communication.

  1. Verbal communication - This type of communication relies on words. This is the most standard method of communication done by all of us daily. The other subcategories of this communication include intrapersonal communication, interpersonal communication, public communication, and small group communication.

  2. Non-verbal communication - This process of communication does not involve sounds or words. There are other cues like body language, eye contact, gestures, etc. used to convey the message. For example, raising an eyebrow to add meaning or tone to what you are saying.

  3. Written communication - The medium of such communication are written words in the form of a letter, journal, reports, e-mails, etc. Written communication is an indispensable part of communication, and they can also have features of visual communication like adding images to your email.

  4. Visual communication - This involves a visual display of information like photography, signs, maps, topography, banners, and posters, etc. Adding icons or emoticons in your text or e-mails are also forms of visual communication.

3. Please Elaborate on The Types of Organizational Communication Barriers.

The organizational barriers can be defined as a disruption in the flow of messages between the employees of an organization which can result in its commercial failure. The different barriers to business communication are as follows.

  • Rules and policies - If an organization is stringent about what kind of message, what medium, and mode of communication is to be used, then employees find it difficult to communicate.

  • Hierarchical positions in the organization - If the status of employees at different positions makes the communication formal, then employees at lower levels would be reluctant in sending messages to their superiors. This fear of sending the wrong message often clouds communication effectiveness.

  • Facilities within an organization - If facilities like phone, stationery, printer, etc. are not adequately offered to the employees, then it adversely affects communication within an organization.

  • Complex organizational structure - If there are many management levels in a company, then communication gets delayed. It could also change till the time it reaches the intended recipient. 

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