Communication skills are all about shared understanding. However, there are many reasons why interpersonal communication may not be impactful. These barriers to communication may occur at any stage of the communication process. A skilled communicator needs to be aware of the barriers and how to overcome them. So what are the common barriers to effective business communication and how to improve communication?
Let’s take a look at some of them:
- Language barriers and the use of jargon
- Emotional barriers
- Systematic barriers
- Differences in perception
- Physical infirmities such as hearing problems or speech difficulties
- Physical barriers like noise, distance, closed doors, cabins
- Expectations and prejudices
- Cultural differences
- Information overload
Let’s look at some of these barriers in detail-
1. Language Barriers
Difference in language is the most obvious barrier to communication as two people speaking two different languages cannot communicate with each other. The accents and dialect (use of words) of people belonging to different places differs even if their language is same. Though the languages are technically the same in people using different dialects and accents, the meanings, implications and interpretations of words are different, which may lead to various kinds of conflicts. For example, if a Scottish farmer talks to a person from London, they do not understand most of the words the other says even though they both speak English. The word ham and bacon can be used interchangeably in Scotland but they are different in England. The use of jargon and abbreviations may also be a language barrier like the word LOL. Different people could interpret it in different ways. Incorrect choice of words can also be a barrier to communication. Words with two meanings, homonyms, homographs, homophones should always be avoided as it doesn’t send the proper meaning and can be interpreted in any way. Grammar and spelling becomes a barrier in communication as people from different parts of the world can be using it differently even in a particular word. For example, a person makes a mistake of typing done as don. The spelling and grammar checker of the computer does not label it as wrong as don is also a correct word. But, the word can change the whole meaning of the sentence or make the sentence not understandable.
2. Psychological Barriers
There are a number of psychological barriers to communication. One such is the mindset of the sender and the receiver. If the receiver of the communication mis-trusts the sender then he/she may not receive the message in the manner in which it was intended. The same goes for the sender too. Anger can also be a psychological barrier to communication. When we are angry we are not able to communicate effectively. People who are less assertive may not be able to communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively and this too may become a barrier to effective communication.
3. Systematic Barriers
Many organizations have inefficient or inappropriate information systems and communication channels. People are not clear about their roles and responsibilities in the communication process. Sometimes business communication in an organization can get very complicated and challenging and the leaders of the organization have to try keeping it as simple as possible.
There are a number of other barriers to effective communication skills like physical barriers, attitudinal barriers and cultural barriers. Communication skills training is one of the most sought after training programmes in organizations today. Organisations seek to promote communication skills development in their employees through these programmes.