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Barriers to Effective Communication

There are many reasons why interpersonal communications may fail.   In many communications, the message (what is said) may not be received exactly the way the sender intended. It is, therefore, important that the communicator seeks feedback to check that their message is clearly understood.

The skills of Active Listening, Clarification may help but the skilled communicator also needs to be aware of the barriers to effective communication and how to avoid or overcome them.

There are many barriers to communication and these may occur at any stage in the communication process.  Barriers may lead to your message becoming distorted and you therefore risk wasting both time and/or money by causing confusion and misunderstanding. Effective communication involves overcoming these barriers and conveying a clear and concise message. 

Common Barriers to Effective Communication:

  • The use of jargon. Over-complicated, unfamiliar and/or technical terms.
  • Emotional barriers and taboos. Some people may find it difficult to express their emotions and some topics may be completely 'off-limits' or taboo.
  • Lack of attention, interest, distractions, or irrelevance to the receiver. 
  • Differences in perception and viewpoint.
  • Physical disabilities such as hearing problems or speech difficulties.
  • Physical barriers to non-verbal communication. Not being able to see the non-verbal cues, gestures, posture and general body language can make communication less effective.
  • Language differences and the difficulty in understanding unfamiliar accents.
  • Expectations and prejudices which may lead to false assumptions or stereotyping.  People often hear what they expect to hear rather than what is actually said and jump to incorrect conclusions.
  • Cultural differences.  The norms of social interaction vary greatly in different cultures, as do the way in which emotions are expressed. For example, the concept of personal space varies between cultures and between different social settings.

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