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Barriers To Effective Communication

Last Updated on June 26, 2023 by Mayank Dham

Communication Barriers refer to the elements that hinder the efficiency of communication. They result in a discrepancy between the sender’s intended message and the receiver’s interpretation. These barriers can manifest at any point during the communication process. In this blog, we’ll deep dive into the barriers to effective communication or we can say barriers of communication. Let’s get started with the definition of communication.

What is Communication?

Communication is an essential component of human connections. Through communication, individuals engage in interactions with each other. The term ‘communication’ originates from the Latin word ‘communis’, meaning shared or common. Thus, communication can be defined as the process of exchanging information, thoughts, viewpoints, or feelings with the aim of establishing mutual comprehension. It encompasses all the actions undertaken by an individual to foster understanding in the minds of others.

Features of Communication

Features of Communication include:

  • Sender: Communication involves a sender or source who initiates the communication process by conveying a message.
  • Message: The message is the information, idea, or intent that the sender wants to communicate to the receiver. It can be conveyed through various means such as spoken words, written text, gestures, or visual symbols.
  • Receiver: The receiver is the intended recipient of the message. They receive and interpret the message sent by the sender.
  • Medium: The medium refers to the channel or method through which the message is transmitted. It can be a face-to-face conversation, telephone, email, video conference, or any other form of communication medium.
  • Feedback: Feedback is the response or reaction of the receiver to the message. It helps the sender assess whether the message has been understood correctly and allows for clarification or further communication if necessary.
  • Encoding: Encoding is the process of converting the message into a suitable form for transmission. It involves selecting words, structuring sentences, and using appropriate non-verbal cues to convey the intended meaning.
  • Decoding: Decoding is the process of interpreting the message by the receiver. It involves understanding and assigning meaning to the received message based on their own knowledge and experiences.
  • Context: The context refers to the circumstances, environment, and cultural factors that surround the communication process. It influences how the message is understood and interpreted by both the sender and receiver.
  • Noise: Noise refers to any interference or disturbance that can hinder effective communication. It can be external (such as loud noises) or internal (such as distractions or language barriers), and it can affect the clarity and understanding of the message.
  • Purpose: Communication serves a specific purpose, which can be to inform, persuade, express emotions, seek clarification, or establish and maintain relationships.

Classification of Barriers to effective communication

The barriers of communication can be broadly classified as:

  • Semantic Barriers
  • Psychological Barriers
  • Organizational Barriers
  • Personal Barriers

1. Semantic Barriers:

The field of study concerned with the interpretation of words and sentences is referred to as semantics. Semantic barriers encompass the difficulties and obstacles encountered during the encoding and decoding process of transforming messages into words or impressions. These barriers arise due to the fact that different individuals assign different meanings to words. Communication breakdowns can occur when two people attach divergent interpretations to a particular word. For instance, within organizations, the term "profits" may connote growth and efficiency, whereas for employees, it may signify insufficient wages and benefits resulting from excessive funds.

Some common manifestations of semantic barriers include:

  • Poorly Articulated Messages: When a message lacks clarity and precision, it is considered poorly expressed. Communication effectiveness diminishes when the language used in the message is ambiguous, imprecise, or contains incorrect or missing words.

  • Multiple Meanings of Symbols: The same words can possess various meanings for different individuals and can convey different ideas in different contexts. For example, words such as "effect" and "affect," "ideal" and "idle," "advice" and "advise," "bear" and "bare," though sounding similar, have distinct meanings.

  • Flawed Translations: Sometimes, individuals do not comprehend the language in which a message is originally conveyed. In such cases, it becomes necessary to translate the message into a language understandable by the receiver. However, if the translator lacks proficiency, it can become a barrier to effective communication.

  • Unspecified Assumptions: When the sender fails to clarify the assumptions related to a message, the receiver may develop different assumptions. For instance, if a boss states, "Complete the work," without specifying the deadline, the subordinates may interpret it as a week-long target while the boss intended it to be completed by the following day.

  • Technical Jargon: Experts and specialists often utilize technical jargon or terminology to communicate messages. However, such jargon may not be comprehensible to the general public, leading to ineffective communication.

  • Decoding Body Language and Gestures: Non-verbal communication, including facial expressions, gestures, and body language, is an important aspect of communication. It is crucial that these non-verbal cues align with the verbal language used. If they do not match, the receiver may become confused and misinterpret the intended message.

2. Psychological Barriers:

Psychological barriers are obstacles that arise due to the emotional and psychological state of both the sender and receiver of a message. These barriers impede effective communication. For instance, a person experiencing high levels of stress may struggle to communicate properly.

Here are some common forms of psychological barriers:

  • Premature Evaluation: This refers to the tendency to form judgments or opinions before fully listening to the entire message. Premature evaluation distorts understanding and acts as a barrier to effective communication. It can also lead to biases and prejudices that hinder open communication.

  • Lack of Attention: When proper attention is not given to the communication process, it can result in less effective communication and misunderstandings. Inattention may stem from a preoccupied mind on the part of the receiver. For example, if a superior provides instructions on operating new software, but the subordinate is preoccupied with personal issues, the lack of attention makes the communication process one-sided and ineffective.

  • Loss by Transmission and Poor Retention: Information can be lost or distorted as it passes through various levels or channels within an organization. This is especially common in oral communication. Additionally, poor retention of information acts as a barrier when individuals are unable to retain the communicated information over a prolonged period.

  • Distrust: Lack of mutual trust between the sender and receiver acts as a significant barrier to effective communication. When there is a lack of trust, the parties involved are unable to interpret the message in its intended sense. The presence of distrust can create skepticism and hinder open and honest communication.

3. Organizational Barrier

Organizational barriers refer to the obstacles that arise within an organization and impede effective communication. As communication passes through different levels and channels in an organization, it may not reach its intended destination as originally sent by the sender. Factors such as organizational structure, rules and regulations, authority relationships, and more can act as barriers to effective communication.

Here are some examples of organizational barriers:

  • Organizational Policy: The effectiveness of communication is influenced by the policies of the organization. If the organizational policy does not support the free flow of communication, it hampers the communication process. For instance, in a centralized organization, communication may not be encouraged to flow freely, and it must follow a prescribed channel.

  • Rules and Regulations: Rigid and cumbersome rules and regulations can impact the communication process. The channels and subject matter for communication may be predefined, limiting flexibility and acting as barriers.

  • Status: Status differences between superiors and subordinates create psychological distance, which hinders open and accurate communication. Subordinates may feel restricted in expressing their thoughts and feelings if managers are overly conscious of their status.

  • Complexity in Organizational Structure: The complexity of an organization’s structure can also impede communication. If there are multiple managerial levels within the structure, communication may become delayed and distorted as it passes through various layers.

  • Organizational Facilities: The absence of communication facilitation tools and resources within an organization, such as frequent meetings, conferences, suggestion boxes, or complaint boxes, can hinder effective communication.

4. Personal Barrier:

Personal barriers refer to the individual factors of both the sender and the receiver that influence the effectiveness of communication.

Here are some examples of personal barriers:

  • Fear of Challenging Authority: If a superior is afraid that certain communication may undermine their authority, they may withhold or limit such communication to maintain their position and prestige within the organization.

  • Lack of Confidence in Subordinates: When superiors lack faith or confidence in the abilities of their subordinates, it hampers effective communication. If trust and confidence are lacking, the superior may disregard or ignore advice and suggestions from their subordinates.

  • Unwillingness to Communicate: A lack of willingness to communicate can also hinder effective communication. In many cases, subordinates may choose not to communicate with their superiors out of concern that providing incorrect or inappropriate information may have negative consequences for them.

  • Lack of Proper Incentives: When there are no proper incentives or motivation for communication, subordinates may not take the initiative to communicate. For example, if there are no rewards or recognition for suggestions made by subordinates, they may be less motivated to actively participate in communication.

Communication barriers are common obstacles that can hinder effective communication in various contexts. We have discussed each barrier of communication in detail. These barriers can arise from factors such as semantic misunderstandings, psychological and emotional states, organizational structures and policies, personal inhibitions, and more. Recognizing and addressing these barriers is crucial for enhancing communication and fostering mutual understanding among individuals or within organizations.

FAQs related to barriers of communication:

Q1. How can semantic barriers be overcome?
Semantic barriers can be overcome by promoting clarity and precision in language use, ensuring a common understanding of words and meanings, avoiding jargon or technical terms when communicating with non-experts, and providing context and explanations when necessary.

Q2. How can psychological barriers be mitigated?
To mitigate psychological barriers, it is important to cultivate an open and trusting environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions. Active listening, empathy, and understanding can help in overcoming premature evaluation, lack of attention, and distrust.

Q3. What strategies can be employed to overcome organizational barriers?
To overcome organizational barriers, organizations can encourage open communication channels, establish supportive policies that promote the free flow of information, simplify rigid rules and regulations, foster a culture of collaboration and feedback, and provide adequate communication facilities and resources.

Q4. How can personal barriers be addressed?
Personal barriers can be addressed by fostering trust and confidence among team members, promoting a culture of open communication and active listening, providing incentives and recognition for contributions and suggestions, and encouraging individuals to overcome their fear of challenging authority.

Q5. Can barriers to communication be completely eliminated?
While it may be challenging to completely eliminate all barriers to communication, awareness, understanding, and proactive efforts can significantly minimize their impact. Continuous improvement, feedback, and a commitment to effective communication can help in reducing the occurrence and impact of communication barriers.

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