Common Barriers to Effective Communication

Effective communication is the ability to continue a conversation with another person in an engaging, focused, consistent and reliable manner. Communication becomes ineffective due to various barriers. Barriers to effective communication can be of many types such as psychological, emotional, physical, linguistic, cultural, etc. This article reviews the most prominent barriers to effective communication.

Barriers to Communication
Barriers to Effective Communication

What are the Barriers to Communication?

Communication is the process by which ideas, information, opinions, and feelings are exchanged between people to reach a common understanding. 

Since ancient times, all creatures on the planet have developed methods through which they share their thoughts and feelings with each other, but the ability of human beings to use spoken speech and language to convey accurate meanings has made his communication significantly distinguished from other creatures.

However, the process of human communication may be exposed to a set of barriers that hinder it and limit its effectiveness.

There are some common barriers of communication including irrelevance to the receiver, lack of attention and interest, distractions, physical disabilities such as speech difficulties or hearing problems, differences in perception and viewpoint, and physical barriers to non-verbal communication.

In this article, we will discuss the most prominent barriers to effective communication. 

Communication Process

Definition of Communication

Communication is defined as the process by which thoughts, information, and feelings are sent and received through verbal or non-verbal methods and means such as verbal communication, writing, drawings, signals, and behaviors.

Communication is one of the main building blocks in relationships between people and organizations.

Communication can also be defined as the process of creating and exchanging meaning between parties.

Types of Communication

 Communication between individuals and groups is divided into two main types, namely:

Formal communication: It is the communication that takes place through the various official communication channels within the organizational chart, as it may occur between a superior and a secondary employee or between an employee and a manager or between employees or managers with each other, and these communications can be verbal or written and are often recorded and saved.

Informal communication: It is the casual and unofficial form of communication, and it is characterized by that it can spread quickly and it is very difficult to discover its source. In informal communication, information is exchanged spontaneously and can spread quickly between two or more people without conforming to formal rules, formalities, processes, systems, and chain of command. And it is very difficult to discover the source of information.

Informal communication may also lead to incorrect rumors, and people's behavior is often affected by rumors and unofficial information that may sometimes hinder the work environment.

Basic Elements of the Communication Process

Before addressing the barriers to effective communication, it is necessary to talk about the elements of the communication process.

The effective communication process is a continuous process that includes several main elements, namely the sender, the receiver, the means of communication, encoding and decoding in addition to the feedback.

The following points summarize the elements of the communication process and the role of each in this process:

Message: It represents ideas, information, opinions, facts, feelings and other messages that are generated by the sender.

Sender: The sender represents the party responsible for creating the message and transmitting it to the receiver. He is also the source and the person who starts the communication process.

Receiver: The receiver is the person who receives the message from the source and tries to understand the message in the best possible way to achieve the desired goals.

Communication channel: The communication channel represents the means by which the message is transmitted. The person interested in communicating has to choose the channel to send the required information, ideas, etc. 

The information is sent to the receiver through certain mediums which may be either a physical transmission medium such as a wire or a logical communication over a multiplexed medium like a radio channel in telecommunications and computer networking.

Encoding: Encoding is the process of converting ideas into communication. The encoding process depends on the purpose of the communication and the relationship between the sender and the receiver. An encoder uses a "medium" to send the message - a phone call, text message, email, face-to-face meeting, or other communication tools.

Decoding: Decoding is the process of interpreting and translating the coded information into a comprehensible and understandable form. Decoding the message is how the listener or audience is able to understand and interpret the message.

Feedback: Feedback refers to any response the recipient gives to the message. Feedback completes the communication process and ensures that there is no misunderstanding and miscommunication. If the feedback clearly indicates that the message has not been understood, this means that the communication process has failed.

Barriers to Effective Communication

The communication process encounters a number of obstacles that often distort the meaning or message to be conveyed, leading to a state of misunderstanding that ultimately leads to the failure of effective communication.

Barriers to effective communication can be linguistic, psychological, emotional, or physical.

The following points contain a simple explanation of common barriers to effective communication:

Language barriers

The language barrier is one of the main barriers to effective communication, as language is the most widely used communication tool between humans.

And the fact that every region or country has its own different language is one of the barriers to effective communication

It is estimated that the dialect of each of the two regions changes within a few kilometers, even in the same workplace the employees possess different language skills and as a result, the communication channels that bifurcate across the organization are affected.

Psychological barriers

Many psychological problems stand in the way of effective communication, for example, many people are afraid of standing on stage or speaking in front of the audience, which may cause them to have speech disorders in addition to phobias, depression, and other symptoms. It is very difficult to avoid such circumstances at times, so psychological barriers are among the most important obstacles to effective communication.

Emotional barriers

A person's emotional intelligence often determines the ease and effectiveness of the communication process. An emotionally mature person is often able to communicate effectively with others, while people who let their emotions take over often face many difficulties.

An ideal combination of emotions and facts results in effective communication, while feelings of anger and frustration can affect a person's decision-making abilities and thus limit the effectiveness of their communication.

Physical barriers

A physical barrier is an environmental and natural condition that acts as a barrier in the communication process and can lead to distraction resulting in inattention or completely altering the message, causing miscommunication.

If the physical barriers are reduced or removed, the communication process becomes effective as there are less distortion and interference.

The major environmental/physical barriers include organizational environment or interior workspace design problems, technological problems, work overload, information duplication, and noise. 

For example, the physical separation of employees within a large office combined with poor communication equipment may create severe barriers to effective communication. When messages are sent, physical barriers like walls, doors, distance, etc. do not let the communication become effective.

Some physical barriers are easy to alter whereas, some may prove challenging in the effective communication process.

Other Barriers to Communication

Organizational Structure Barriers: There are some institutions that rely on a weak organizational structure or do not have a specific organizational structure within the organization, also the multiplicity of administrative levels within the organization leads to the difficulty of defining the powers and the difficulty of defining the goal, which leads to difficult communication.

Ethical Barriers to Communication: Ethical barriers occur when individuals working in an organization find it difficult to express their opposition, even though their organization is behaving in ways that they consider unethical.

Physiological barriers to communication: Physiological barriers may result from the performance characteristics and limitations of the human body and the human mind.

Cultural barriers to communication: Cultural barriers often arise where individuals in one social group have developed different norms, values, or behaviors to individuals related to another group.

Socio-religious barriers: Other barriers are social and religious barriers. In a patriarchal society, a woman or a transgender may encounter many difficulties and barriers during communication.

Moral barriers:  These barriers may relate to the time of writing the message, the goal of it, or the method of communication that took place during its expression, for example, the goal of writing the message may be unclear or its perception of the sender differs from the sender to the future. Also, the communication process took place at an inappropriate time, or it took place at a specific time that cannot be changed.

Also, the way individuals sit and the manner of their speech while conveying the message, and negative facial expressions constitute an obstacle to the communication process.

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