Communication is a conversational process of sending and receiving messages. Communication is important in business, personal relationships and daily tasks of going grocery shopping or grabbing a morning cup of coffee. Various barriers exist that can distort or prohibit a message from being properly understood or sent. These barriers can cause conflict in interpersonal relationships, prevent a business from being successful in a different culture and lead to low employee satisfaction in an organization. Identifying the barriers to communication is the first step to improving the effectiveness of the communication.
According to businessdictionary.com, barriers to communication are defined as, “aspects of or conditions… that interfere with effective exchange of ideas or thoughts.” Barriers to communication can be anything that distorts or prevents a message from being properly sent or received.
Perceptions play a role in communication barriers. A person’s perceptions develop through life experiences, cultural norms and family life and vary from person to person. An individual’s perception can inhibit a person from properly understanding a message. For example, a manager may stop by a person’s desk to follow up on a report for clarity, but if the person’s perception is that the manager doesn’t trust her ability to follow through, she receives the message incorrectly.
When a person sends a message, it develops through the sender’s filters. The recipient then processes the message through his filters before he reacts to it. For example, someone can say, “I need you to step it up on your work performance.” A person with a self-conscious filter will hear, “You’re not doing a good job,” while a person with a strong work ethic will hear a challenge to rise to.
Two of the most common language communication barriers are the use of jargon and ambiguity. Jargon is words that are specific to a particular industry, trade or culture. If a business professional is talking with a customer, she will want to avoid using words that only people versed in the industry would understand. Ambiguity creates a barrier in communication because it leaves too much of the message undefined. The sender may dismiss the message because she does not understand or may misinterpret it.
Practice listening skills to overcome communication barriers. Listening requires the person to make mental notes, ask questions and clarify the information for understanding. Repeat the message back to the sender for clarity, and don’t make assumptions based on interpretation. Think about the messages sending them. Make sure they are concise, well defined and use intentional words.