We human beings are social beings and naturally have to communicate with one another regularly. The failure to communicate well can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, time wasted, and several more costs. This brings us to the key focus of this article: the communication barriers. The way we communicate can drastically impact the messages we are trying to deliver – whether positively or negatively. This piece of writing dives into the barriers of communication that exist or are likely to occur in our daily lives. The article explores communication barriers, the types of communication barriers, and ways to solve them. Primarily, the article defines communication and the players or factors that have a key role in communication.
Communication is an exchange of information between two or more parties. It is a process that requires a two-way or mutual understanding. We must first understand that there is a message, a sender, a receiver, and a medium of delivery in communication.
- The message in communication is the piece of information that is exchanged between a sender and a receiver. It could be a set of instructions, a simple greeting, or a piece of news intended to be consumed by the receiver.
- The sender is the source of the message being communicated and hence is the initiator of the communication. The sender initiates communication by speaking, writing, or gesturing. They can also be referred to as the communicator.
- The receiver is the end-user and decoder of the message that a sender delivers. They participate in communication by listening to, reading, or observing what the communicator relays to them. They can also be referred to as the audience.
- A medium is a tool or platform that can deliver a message from a sender to a receiver. It simply acts as a transportation device for messages to reach their intended audience.
Now that we understand what goes into communication, we look into what barriers to communication are.
What Are Barriers of Communication?
Communication barriers are any aspects that hinder or prevent us from effectively communicating with one another. They can occur from a sender failing to deliver a message clearly. They can occur if an appropriate or ineffective medium of communication was chosen to deliver the message. They can also occur from a receiver simply just misinterpreting the given message. Therefore, all communication processes are vulnerable to facing barriers of communication.
The Types of Barriers to Communication
- Differences in Communication Styles and Skills. We all have our own ways of communicating that work more effectively for us and cater to our preferences. If someone who prefers verbal direct communication encounters someone who prefers written and indirect communication, they may have difficulties or frustrations in interacting and communicating with each other.
- Cultural Barriers. We live in a remarkably diverse world where we come across people from different backgrounds, upbringings, states, countries, and cultures. These differences can enable us to have completely distinct communication styles and mannerisms from one another. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of room for misunderstanding and conflict if people from two vastly different backgrounds and cultures interact. What is acceptable in one culture may be completely offensive to another. If at least one of the communicators is unaware of the other communicator’s cultural sensitivity, this may cause a communication breakdown.
- Language Barriers. In a world where there are up to 6,500 languages, we are bound to run into people who do not speak the same language as we do. This will decrease the potential to have proper communication between two parties as they cannot understand one another. Even where you may speak the same language as the other communicator, a difference in accents, slang, abbreviations, colloquialisms, and jargon that we use can also act as a language barrier of communication.
- Physical Barriers. Physical barriers of communication arise when there are physical or tangible obstacles between the communicator and receiver, affecting how well communication between them will be. Examples of physical barriers include noisy environments, damaged communication devices, physical obstacles, extreme weather conditions, third-party interferences, and long geographical distance between communicating parties. This physical barrier can place two parties trying to communicate at a disadvantage as they may be in different time zones and may have to strictly rely on a few available channels that may also be vulnerable to network or system failure. Physical barriers also reduce the effectiveness of messages that are best-delivered face to face because they eliminate the use of body language and gestures.
- Systematic Barriers. The workplace is especially vulnerable to this type of barrier. When one has to overcome and go through several stages and processes before delivering a message to their intended receiver, this can impact how well the communication will go. For example, if a communicator cannot directly speak to their receiver and rather has to deliver their message across multiple channels and people before it can reach the receiver, the message being delivered is becoming distorted by the time the main receiver gets the message. A lot of confusion is bound to arise with this kind of communication barrier. Additionally, systematic barriers may prevent certain people from communicating with each other because of hierarchy, status, and structural reasons.
- Communication Channel Barriers. The selection of an appropriate communication channel is crucial as it can heavily impact how the receiver understands or perceives the message. If one delivers an emergency warning to a receiver over an email, it may be less helpful than it would have been if it had been delivered through a phone call, allowing the receiver to have a real-time and quicker response.
- Technology Barriers. Living in a highly digitized and technology-heavy world, we rely more and more on our devices, machinery, and other technology to make our lives more convenient. However, as convenient as technology maybe, when it breaks down or faces technical difficulties, it has the power to create big inconveniences as well. If we rely on technology to communicate with one another, we are vulnerable to communication failures that could arise simply because of a technological fault. Another way this barrier could arise is if communicating parties do not know how to use the technology required to communicate.
- Psychological and Emotional Barriers. We all take and see things differently according to our personal experiences and state of mind. This can impact the way a message is delivered and the way it is received and understood. If one communicator is feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions, that will create a difference in the way they deliver their message in comparison to when they are not overwhelmed by negative emotions. Another example is that if one is stressed, they may be distracted and choose an inappropriate medium to deliver their message. They may easily misunderstand what a communicator says to them. Having mistrust or fear for the people you are communicating with can also affect how well the communication will go.
- Physiological Barriers. These types of barriers result from limitations that an individual may have regarding their body or mental state. Physiological barriers limit the capacity that you may have to have a message delivered appropriately or to decode a received message accordingly. For example, if a communicator sends a written message to their intended receiver, the receiver may have difficulties understanding the message if they have poor eyesight. If someone is in poor health, they may also be unable to convey an important message promptly to an audience.
- Personality Barriers. Our personalities can be beneficial assets as we communicate, but they also can create problems and hindrances. If people communicating have a clash in personalities, a message that would have otherwise been delivered efficiently can get lost in communication. A simple disagreement over personal matters can interfere with the effectiveness of communication.
- Gender Barriers. Having a different gender identity from those you are trying to communicate with can result in communication barriers. We may have to have different approaches towards each other and be sensitive to gender identities. If communicators are not conscious of these differences, they are susceptible to using inappropriate terminology or references during communication, creating conflict and offensive rapport.
- Interpersonal Barriers. How well you interact with others generally can affect the chances of dealing with communication barriers. If one is not very social and tends to avoid social settings, they are less likely to approach other people and communicate effectively if desired.
- Time Barriers. Sometimes messages need to be delivered within a specified amount of time for several reasons. At times, the communicating parties themselves are in a rush to have their messages sent and received. The barrier of communication that arises from time constraints can affect many things. Receivers may only access important messages at a delayed point because an inappropriate medium was used to deliver the message.
- Too Much Information. Senders may want to deliver bulky and text-heavy messages to their receivers at once. This is not very convenient for those on the receiving end of the message as they have to process immense amounts of information at once. This may lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation of the message. This may also demotivate the receiver from attentively engaging in communication because the message is just too overwhelming.
Ways to Solve or Reduce Barriers of Communication
Communication barriers can affect our personal lives and professional lives. They can create problems that result in even bigger problems that could have easily been preventable. It is important to understand types of communication and types of channels that can be used for communication to help minimize the chances of communication barriers arising.
Types of Communication
There are five types of communication that will be reviewed, and they are as follows:
- Verbal Communication
Verbal communication is oral communication that can occur in many ways, such as in person, over a phone call, or a video call. When verbal communication is happening, it is essentially because one person is speaking to another. In this form of communicating, things such as your tone of voice, attitude, speed, volume, and accent play a major role in how well your message will be delivered.
This type of communication is crucial because it can happen in real-time and is very susceptible to misunderstandings or communication breakdowns. To reduce the chances of communication barriers from occurring, one must be more conscious of the way they speak and clarify a message to their receiver. You must speak more clearly, avoid using offensive, inappropriate, or unnecessary language, and listen actively to your fellow communicator.
- Non-Verbal Communication
This form of communication complements verbal communication. In non-verbal communication lies eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and several more physical indicators. This type of communication tends to add more to verbal communication but can also stand on its own. One can decode how comfortable someone else is not through what they are saying but through their actions and posture. It is important to be able to read non-verbal messages when it comes to communicating.
To decrease communication barriers, you must learn how people act or behave when communicating certain messages. You can learn that you have offended someone just by reading their facial expression, which should put you in the position to de-escalate whatever tension has been created appropriately. The body language you also use will affect whomever you are communicating with, so you must watch how you position yourself.
- Written Communication
Written communication is a form of communication that allows a message to be delivered in writing. With this, a sender can put down all necessary details on a medium or chosen platform to deliver the message. The message is then delivered to the receiver, who has the opportunity to repeatedly go over the received message to enhance their understanding or reception of it. This form of communication is highly effective when the sender has commendable writing skills, enabling them to relay the message in a convenient, digestible, and understandable format.
To lessen the possibility of a communication barrier occurring, communicators who use or prefer written communication must be proficient in writing and possess suitable writing skills. It is also important that they avoid overwhelming the receiver with too much information in their writing. Another crucial factor is to ensure that the receiver can read and interpret the given message as intended. All these factors help lessen the possibility of barriers of communication from appearing.
- Listening Communication
There are multiple channels of communication nowadays that present communicator with the opportunity to reach many receivers that require active listening. Listening communication can occur through radio programs, podcasts, voice mails, and even public presentations. We need to be able to give our attention to the messages to fully engage and listen to the content being broadcast or delivered to us. This helps us achieve efficient communication. A communicator will have successfully delivered their message if we listen accordingly.
We must learn to have patience when it comes to listening to give our full and undivided attention. Patience is crucial in this form of communication because, for effective communication to occur, we must accept to wait until the message is completely and fully received before we can give our feedback or end the communication.
- Visual Communication
We can also be communicated with through carefully constructed imaging. As they say, an image is worth a thousand words, so visual messages we receive and put out can significantly impact whoever receives the imagery. This type of communication can occur in many ways, such as through posters, paintings, comics, animations, memes, logos, videos, and television. Considering that we live in a world where we are constantly exposed to imagery from many media, visual communication is very influential and important to understand.
To help minimize the risk of having barriers to communication, we must learn the meanings of visual imagery, representations, and symbols. This will help us know what images are appropriate to deliver our messages and how our intended audiences will receive them. Through this, we can reduce our chances of accidentally offending others or portraying confusing messages through visuals.
Now that we have seen the five common types of communication and learned how we could use our understanding to communicate better with each other, we will now take a brief look at the different types of media that we can use to deliver and receive our messages.
Examples of Channels for Communication
There are numerous channels of communication that we use in our daily lives. The following are some examples of the most common communication channels:
- Emails – these channels fall under the written communication form. It is one of the most popular channels of communication to date. It allows communicators to deliver messages that can contain different types of information quickly. It also stores valuable information that either of the communicators can always revisit later.
- Phone calls – this communication channel falls under the verbal and listening communication forms. Phone calls allow communicating parties to have a real-time conversation and are convenient for messages that need to be communicated urgently.
- Video calls or virtual meetings (video conferencing) – these channels create an opportunity for communicating parties to emulate a real-time face-to-face meeting. Verbal, listening, visual and non-verbal types of communication can all be carried out through video conferencing. It brings the advantages of a real in-person meeting while allowing communicators to stay in the comfort of their homes or designated locations.
- Text messages – they are a communication channel that allows people to send and receive messages almost always instantly. This channel falls under the written communication type and gives users space to quickly send back and forth messages and are great channels for informal and urgent messages.
- Social media, radio, music, graphics, newsletters, and many more communications channels help people communicate with each other. Communication channels help deliver important messages quickly, especially where in-person communication cannot happen. They create convenience in many circumstances where people are not readily available to communicate.
- Communication channels allow communicators to communicate promptly at their own convenience or help get emergency messages across when one communicating party cannot be easily reached. These channels create the opportunity to share and store all types of important information between communicating parties. They can accommodate messages of vary urgency and importance as well.
However, all these channels are susceptible to technological faults, which can invite barriers to communication. One may encounter a problem when utilizing communication channels is not knowing how to use them as they are meant to be used. Channels such as emails and video calls have an “etiquette” that comes with using them when communicating with others. It is important to know simple things such as how to appropriately greet or sign off to decrease the chance of communication failure occurring.
We must practice our listening skills so we are more attentive to other parties when interacting with them to minimize the chances of communication failure and increase how much clarification we can obtain from communicating. Emotional intelligence is also a helpful factor in reducing communication barriers as it helps be more empathetic, sensitive, and understanding of the other communicator’s feelings. That brings an end to the guide on communication barriers. We hope this enlightened you on how to communicate better and avoid obstacles that can arise when communicating.