Barriers to communication are things that prevent people from understanding a message, or understanding it the same way. Some common barriers to communication include:
• Poor listening skills. Many people consider speaking the most important element of communication. However, good listening skills are critical to effective communication. They help you better understand the information other people are trying to convey, improve your rapport with others, and improve your problem solving skills.
• Language barriers. The words you use to communicate may create a barrier to communication. This can be as basic as communicating with someone who doesn’t speak the same language, or a subtle as interpreting the words you use in a different way. It can also include poor use of language by the communicator (e.g., using words incorrectly, poor grammar), a lack of understanding of the language or context (e.g., a non-technical person trying to communicate about a technical issue), using colloquialisms or jargon, using ambiguous word choices, etc.
• Emotional barriers. There is a greater potential for misunderstanding when emotions are involved. For example, a sender who is upset or angry may not be able to effectively communicate his or her feelings and ideas. A receiver in a similar state may ignore or distort what the other person is saying.
• Environmental barriers. This can include a number of factors including, interruptions, distractions, physical environment issues (lighting, noise, comfort), talking too softly, physical distance, a physical barrier between sender and recipient, etc.
• Timing barriers. The timing of a communication can affect it’s ability to be understood. For example, there may not be enough time to communicate the message fully, or it may be too early or too late in the day for someone to give the communication his or her full attention.
• Perceptual barriers. Each person experiences events—including communications—in a way that is unique to him or her. A sender will communicate in a way that makes sense in his or her reality. A receiver understands a communication in a similar manner. However, these two realities may not be the same, so the message may be perceived differently, hindering communication. Variables including age, education, gender, social and economic status, cultural background, temperament, health, religion, political beliefs, etc. can alter perceptions and create barriers to communication.
• Filtering. Think of the child’s game of telephone, where a message is passed from one person to another. In most cases, the message, as finally received, is very different from the one that was originally sent. That is filtering. Filtering occurs in a variety of ways that can be a barrier to effective communication, for example, when an assistant, co-worker or spouse takes a message on your behalf, how someone leaves a message on an answering machine, etc.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Communication Skills for Healthy Relationships.” For more information, please visit http://www.noaa.gov