This article explains the various types of communication barriers.
Table Of Contents
What is communication
The commonly used definition of communication which was developed from communication systems describes communication as the transmitting of information from a source to a destination through a specific channel. Communication is simply the process of sending and receiving messages or information. It is either formal or informal and can be oral, written or non-verbal. There are several types of barriers of communication which create challenges for both individuals and organisations. Some of the communication barriers are semantic barriers, psychological barriers, and mechanical barriers to name a few.
Semantic barriers refer to language and symbols. This communication barrier type arises from poor communication skills. Messages or information that is not clearly written or conveyed will be difficult to understand. Lack of clarity in a message, for example makes it difficult for the receiver to comprehend or interpret. In some cases, the use of technical language common amongst specialists may not be effective when communicating with an average person.
Psychological factors are a type of barrier of communication because they affect the effectiveness of communication. A bad emotional state of mind, which can also be regarded as internal noise can interfere with transmitting and receiving information. An angry person’s tone can overpower his/her message, temporary irritation can make a person lose concentration and miss the meaning of the message and a headache can be a distraction. Lack of trust amongst people also creates challenges in communication especially in a business environment where a manager frequently alters messages. This results in loss of confidence on the part of the receiver making communication ineffective.
Organisational barriers result from the way a company is structured. Most organisations have a communication channel that must be followed when communicating between the ranks. Challenges arise when a person from a lower position sends a message to a person in a senior position. In some cases, the information never reaches the intended person. In other cases, the message is censored or filtered to a point that it ends up being distorted. This type of communication barrier is common in large organisations where there are multiple levels in managerial posts and hierarchical organisational structures.
There is need for a proper information centre to facilitate communication within an organisation and outside an organisation. Telephones, mobile phones, FAX machines and computers are required for effective communication. A Technical type of barrier in communication arises when there is no proper infrastructure to facilitate the use of such technology. Faulty fax machines, poor internet connection and outdated computers create challenges in communication. In addition, the use of a wrong channel can be classified as a type of barrier of communication under technical barriers. For example, sending an urgent message via email instead of using a telephone.
Other types of Barriers of Communication
The most common type of barrier in communication is noise. It can be defined as a random input which could be internal or external that interferes with the transmission of information or the reception of messages. Traffic noise for example can make conversations difficult, as well as a network interference over a telephone or mobile network. Irritation, which may cause a person to lose concentration, is an example of internal noise which may also interfere with communication.
Perception refers to how a person interprets the behaviour and characteristics of another person. It can be seen as a communication type of barrier when a person’s behaviour or message is misinterpreted. In many cases nonverbal signals influence a lot of people’s perception. For example, fidgeting, avoiding eye contact and hesitating when speaking may be perceived as traits of a person who is not being truthful, yet in some cases such behaviour is a result of nervousness or anxiety.
Too much information in a short space of time makes it difficult to retain important messages. This is a common type of communication barrier in many organisations. Many employees receive plenty of emails on a daily basis. Important messages or instructions can be overlooked as a person tries to retain a lot of information in a short space of time.
When a person doesn’t pay attention communication will not be effective. This can be due to distractions, lack of interest or complete disregard. This problem is common with superiors who do not pay attention to the messages subordinates convey to them.
Culture and language
The English language has become a global language that is used in business, science, education and politics but there are differences in the way the language is used. It has a different status in different countries. Being the dominant language in the UK, USA and New Zealand, it is only one of the many languages in many countries such as India, Singapore and Nigeria. The English language is only used for international business communication in other countries like Japan and Korea. As much as global English is the standard English used in business, science and technology, the different contexts in which the language is used in various countries has implications on communication. Different pronunciations, accents and grammatical differences also create misunderstandings and confusion amongst people thus, creating a communication type of barrier. Another way culture may create barriers in communicating is through differences in norms. For example, in Japanese culture people use interruptions more to show agreement than disagreement whilst British people use interruptions for both. These differences may cause tension and quarrels.
Stereotypes and Prejudices
To stereotype is to assign identical characteristics to any person in a group without regard to the actual variation among members of that particular group. Stereotyping is a generalisation about a group of people. It is a communication barrier type in that it is rigid and unresponsive to reality. Stereotypes make communication difficult by making people assume that a widely held belief is true when in actual fact it isn’t. Prejudices cause tension and frustration whilst making communication a challenge. Stereotyping causes people to interpret the behaviour of others inaccurately and ignore other possible interpretations of their behaviour.