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Communication is indubitably the most powerful tool for personal and organizational success. Effective communication can be described as the unambiguous delivery of thoughts and ideas from a sender to a receiver.
Thus, from this description, communication can be effective or ineffective depending on whether the receiver of a message understands the message from the sender appropriately. Ineffective communication is normally caused by the presence of communication barriers during the transmission of the message. Effective communication is so important that the occurrence of barriers of communication during message transmission could fill the thin gap between success and failure in both personal and professional lives.
Although we practice communication in our day-to-day lives, transmission of information from one entity to another is very complex and people have made numerous mistakes due to ineffective communication. These mistakes may be so costly that people who encounter them may have a difficult time recovering from them.
It is common knowledge that a good number of problems that occur in organizations are a product of poor communication. It is thus of essence to carefully study barriers to effective communication and try to mitigate their effects in our professional and personal lives. This can be achieved by avoiding the aforementioned barriers and making conscientious efforts aimed at preserving the meaning of communication.
Despite the efforts that we may employ in a bid to achieve effective communication, barriers to effective communication always find a way in our information transmission chain. Some of these barriers are discussed below:
These are barriers to effective communication that occur due to environmental factors. They are, arguably, the main barrier to effective communication especially at the workplace. Some of the barriers that can be appropriately included in this category include vast space in the workplace making it difficult for people to communicate well with each other. There may also be other environmental factors like noise, closed doors in busy offices, etc. These may work together with other factors to hinder effective communication.
Apart from the environmental factors like noise, too much light, humidity, loud music and the like, communication may also be hindered by subjective strains. This term is used to describe the condition of the receiver’s body and mind when he/she receives the message. A receiver could be experiencing conditions like excess stress, burnout, lack of sleep, etc. when he/she receives the message. This may make the receiver unable to decipher what the message exactly means due to these problems.
It can thus be argued that subjective strains like stress have an effect on the effectiveness of communication. Another subcategory of barriers to effective communication that can be put under the physical barriers is media that a sender of a message uses to transmit his/her message to the receiver. This can be a barrier in a situation where the sender uses a medium that is not appropriate for the message or even for the receiver of the message.
For instance, if the CEO of a company tries o explains some figures to junior workers using charts and graphs, the effectiveness of his communication will depend on whether the workers are able to understand concepts summarized as charts and graphs. Another example would be people who are addicted to using advancements in ICT without considering if the receiver is technology savvy. This is a potential barrier to effective communication (Jain, 2008, p. 1).
A difference in the languages of the sender and the receiver is also another barrier to effective communication. This is because some of the elements of language may be ambiguous. With this statement, it is clear that there is always a room for misinterpretation of information. This leads to misunderstanding and its effects can be disastrous on organizations and even individuals.
For instance, a given word may have a normal meaning in a given language and an offensive meaning in another language. This means that if a person who speaks the former language must be aware of the latter language and the offensive words that he/she should avoid while addressing people who understand the latter language. Therefore, it is always good to know the language orientation of the receiver of a message so that non-ambiguous symbols and words are used (Jenkins, 2007, p. 1).
There are other people who speak completely different languages. In this case, language will be a barrier to not only effective communication, but it will also act as a barrier to the process of communication itself. It will, therefore, be necessary for the parties communicating to find a denominator language with which they can communicate.
If such a language does not exist, they will be forced to hire an interpreter to aid them to communicate. In the latter case, there will be room for distortion of the message given by the sender and thus language will be a barrier to effective communication between the parties (Burnard, 1997, p. 104).
This is among the worst barriers to effective communication. Different people from different cultural backgrounds use a variety of protocols while engaging in communication.
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The diversity of these protocols is as great as the diversity of cultures across the world. It, therefore, proves to be a challenge to try understanding cultures for better communication. For effective communication, it is of essence to enlist culture as one of the potential barriers to effective delivery of information and come up with a conscientious approach of how to deal with it.
The aforementioned protocols span all elements of communication. For instance, different cultures have different protocols about the amount of personal space that one should give to a receiver of a message. If for instance, a culture does not allow people to be too close while passing official messages, it would offend the receiver of the message is the sender violates this protocol.
This will make the receiver of the message less attentive as the message is given to him/her. The receiver of the message may even get the message right and decide to delay action or fail to take action all together due to the way the message is conveyed. This will indubitably be ineffective communication on the part of the sender of the message.
Another part of communication that is highly influenced by culture is the non-verbal communication. These include gestures, facial expressions and the like. In some cultures, it may be seriously offensive to use some gestures. For instance, in some African communities, women are supposed to present themselves in a given way, in terms of gesture, when initiating a conversation with a male counterpart.
They may be required to bow as a sign of respect before the conversation begins or to shake the hand of the male counterpart with both hands. If as the head of a given organization a woman is sent to such a community, failure to observe those requirements would appear as offensive and thus the people there may fail to listen attentively to what she has to say. This will adversely affect the effectiveness of communication between her and the former.
Different people have different dispositions and thus it is normal for a given message to be understood differently by different people depending on the kind of dispositions that they have. In many situations, whether or not emotions are a barrier to effective communication depends on the mindset of the receiver of the message.
This is because the receiver of the message could have prejudgments about the sender of the message which could make him/her react in a certain way to the message. Some of the reactions that a receiver of a message can have due to emotions towards the sender include sudden reactions, unfair assumptions, terror and the like (Burnard, 1997, p. 105).
It is normally a usual occurrence for receivers of certain messages to react suddenly to the receipt of the same. Some receivers even cut the messenger short to express their disapproval of the message. This can either be blamed on the impatience of the listener or the lack of tactical delivery on the part of the messenger.
However, some messages are so harsh on the receiver such that they are bound to bring a certain level of resistance before the receiver of the message listens to it and thus the sender should take his/her time to let the receiver absorb the message. It will obviously be difficult for a receiver of a message to understand the message well if he/she expresses disapproval before the message is fully delivered. It can thus be seen that sudden reactions to information are a serious barrier to effective communication.
Almost every person has been in a situation where he/she was unable to deliver a message effectively after he/she made unfair assumptions. For instance, a certain message may be so simple to the sender that he/she assumes that any person should be able to understand it easily.
If the person above is a manager who wants to give instructions to his subordinates, he/she may suffer serious consequences of ineffective communications in case the subordinates do not understand the information as it is. It is therefore of essence to consider ones audience and empathetically judge the audience. This will make the sender convey the message well (Jain, 2008, p. 1).
Other emotional factors that may affect the effectiveness of communication include terror. This is a situation in which the receiver of the message is so terrified that he/she is unable to think slowly and understand the message as it is. This implies that the receiver of the message has become, to some extent, narrow minded and thus he is unable to understand the message fully.
This way, he/she becomes a huge barrier to effective communication since nothing much can be done for a terrified person to relax, especially if the message is urgent. In other situations, a receiver of a message may become defensive after the receipt of a message.
This normally occurs if, in the opinion of the receiver of the message, the message is meant to disparage him/her in a way. This implies that it will be difficult for the receiver of the message to act on it as required since he/she is against it. This normally occurs in matters requiring a consensus like the things that are agreed upon in a meeting. If a person makes a shrewd contribution and the same is rejected diplomatically by a member in the meeting, it is natural for the person to, kind of, oppose what the other member has to say.
A different case may occur if the information being presented is affecting the receiver in a given way (Burnard, 1997, p. 103). For instance, it will be very difficult to get a good audience for giving reasons for dismissal to a given employee. The person will most likely become defensive and this will affect the effectiveness with which the reasons for dismissal are presented.
Another emotional factor that affects the effectiveness of communication is the attitude exhibited by people who have excess confidence in their knowledge. Such people make very poor audiences and thus it is very difficult for a sender of message to convey their message to them effectively.
That is, these people are always talking and they never have the patience to listen to other people. In the case of a meeting, these kinds of people are always giving ideas and they always want their ideas to be followed failure to which they may get unreasonably angry (Pilai, 2009, p. 1).
This is a major hurdle to effective communication since when such a person is approached by a person with information to pass to him/her, he/she has better and more information to give and thus he/she will not listen to what the other person has to say. It can thus be seen that such a person will not get the information the other person has for him/her as intended.
Although the barriers to effective communication may seem somehow inevasible, we should always make efforts to avoid the barriers to effective communication in order to ensure that we reap maximum benefits from our communication efforts. Care has to be taken when one plans to deliver a certain message to a given person.
The sender of the message should therefore plan on how to deliver his/her message as effectively as possible by considering the possible dispositions of the receiver, physical barriers to communication, language differences and the like.
Apart from planning on how to deliver the message, there are some barriers to effective communication that can be avoided. For instance, if one is planning to deliver an important message to a person in a noisy place, he should talk to them so that they can organize for a less-noisy place to talk.
However, barriers to communication that occur due to dispositions of the receiver or sender may prove to be more difficult to avoid and thus their effects should just be mitigated. For instance, if the receiver of the message is the kind of people who are not patient enough to listen, the sender should show his/her dissatisfaction as the receiver of the message talks so that he/she should give the sender to deliver his message.
Burnard, P. (1997). Effective communication skills for health professionals. New York. Wadsworth Publishing.
Jain, R. (2008). Barriers to Effective Communication. Retrieved from https://ezinearticles.com/?The-Barriers-to-Effective-Communication&id=1210011
Jenkins, M. (2007). Barriers to Effective Communication. Retrieved from https://alliancetac.com/
Pillai, M. (2009). Barriers to Effective Communication. Retrieved from https://workspirited.com/barriers-to-effective-communication