BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AND WAYS OF OVERCOMING THEM

J.O. EMMANUEL
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Communication may be defined as the systematic process whereby information is transferred from the sender to the receiver. 

Certain factors can obstruct the transmission of information from the sender to the receiver.

These are referred to as communication barriers

More specifically, communication barriers are factors that can impede or hinder the effective transmission and comprehension of the sender's message.

There are, at least, five barriers to communication, namely; Noise, language barriers, psychological barriers, cultural barriers, and organizational barriers.

1. Noise: In terms of communication, noise can be defined as distractions that can make it difficult for the receiver to hear or understand the message sent by the sender.

It is anything that physically obstructs the smooth passage of a message from the sender to the receiver.

2. Language barriers: This is another common barrier to effective communication.

A language barrier is any linguistic limitation that can hinder the effective transmission and understanding of the message.

A language barrier occurs when the receiver is unable to understand both the explicit and implicit meaning of the language used by the sender.

It usually occurs when both the sender and receiver do not speak the same language. 

It may also result from the use of language not understood by the receiver.

It should be noted that language barriers are sometimes called semantic barriers.

3. Psychological barriers: As its name seems to suggest, psychological barriers are distortions in communication resulting from the state of mind of either the sender or the receiver.

It occurs when mental turbulence distracts the sender or the receiver from transmitting or understanding the message correctly.

Psychological barriers to communication include:

  • Premature evaluation of information by the receiver: This occurs when the receiver makes assumptions or draws conclusions about the message before it is fully transmitted. The result of this is that the receiver will not fully understand the intended message.
  • Inadequate attention from the receiver: This occurs when the receiver is not attentive to the message being communicated. The result is that important information will be missed and misunderstood by the receiver

4. Cultural barriers: These occur when the sender and receiver have different cultural backgrounds.

To illustrate, different cultures have different expectations for non-verbal communication. 

For example, in Nigeria and USA, the OK 👌  hand gesture serves as a sign of endorsement and approval. However, in Greece and Iran, this is an insulting gesture.

This can lead to misunderstandings if individuals from different cultures interpret nonverbal cues differently as in the case of the OK sign.

Cultural barriers can also manifest in the form of different belief systems when the sender and the receiver have different belief systems.

5. Organizational barriers: These usually emanate from the organization itself.

Organizational barriers may result from the structure, rules, and regulations of the organization. 

They are usually products of the superior-subordinate relationship in the organization or the administrative hierarchy of the organization.

Ways of Overcoming Barriers to Communication

1. Understand the cultural background of the receiver: People should understand and respect the cultural backgrounds of those with whom they communicate, and they should actively seek to bridge any cultural gaps that may exist

2. Get feedback: The sender should not just assume that the receiver has understood the message. He should ask for feedback or clarification from the receiver.

For example, the sender may ask the receiver questions such as "Did you understand what I said", or "Can you tell me what I said".

If the receiver does not correctly answer this question, the sender will explain areas that he believes the receiver does not understand.

Feedback and clarifications can be an effective way of breaking down communication barriers because they make the receiver feel more comfortable asking questions if they are unsure or have misunderstood the message.

3. Use clear language: To minimize misunderstanding, the sender should use language that the receiver can easily understand.

The use of technical terms, jargon, and idioms may cause the receiver to become confused. 

The sender should use simple language when communicating.

4. Encourage active listening: Listening is an essential skill in verbal communication as it helps the receiver decode the contents of the message.

The sender/the receiver must be attentive and ready to listen to the receiver/sender, rather than just waiting for their turn to speak.

5. Minimize distractions: Another way to overcome communication barriers is to minimize distractions to the barest minimum.

For effective communication, physical distractions such as noise must be managed or removed altogether.

For example, if the environment for communication is noisy, the sender and receiver should move away from there or find a way of reducing the noise

6. Understand body language: Nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and posture can convey meaning and can be used to reinforce or contradict spoken words.

As a result, the communicator should be aware of his body language as well as the body language of those with whom he is communicating.

7. Emotional intelligence: The sender should be aware of his or her own emotions and how they affect communication.

The sender should not allow his emotions to distort his ability to communicate effectively.

He should be able to manage his emotions effectively.

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