Common Barriers of Communication

Communication is the key to forging new connections and maintaining relationships. However, several communication barriers can prevent your message from getting through, causing complicated situations. 

According to a 2016 study by Dr. K. Usha Rani (Assistant Professor, Department of English, KL University, Vaddeswaram), communication barriers often fall within five different categories:

  • Attitude
  • Behavior
  • Culture
  • Language
  • Environment

Let’s take a closer look at these barriers and find ways to combat them.

Attitude Barriers

The most common barriers come from our attitude. 

For example, someone who’s angry at a situation might be too distracted to hear your message. 

Or, someone who’s disinterested and disheartened may feel the need to ignore your message completely. 

Alternatively, someone who’s happy or excited may hear your words but misinterpret their meaning to suit the mood. 

Additionally, many attitudes stem from stereotypes, discrimination, and personal perception, and they all have the potential to block incoming communication, scramble outgoing communication, and stagnate a conversation. 

To combat attitude barriers, consider the person you’re talking to. Are they in the right frame of mind to receive your message? If not, maybe wait and convey your message at a later date or try a different method of communication. 

Behavior Barriers

Similar to attitude barriers, a person’s behavior can cause barriers to communication. Maybe they aren’t taking the message seriously enough. Or, they don’t believe you have the knowledge or skills to make them receive it. 

Stereotyping is a common behavior that limits communication in a big way. If you’re a woman or a minority, disabled, or otherwise “odd,” you know exactly how harmful stereotyping can be to communication channels. 

To combat behavior barriers, treat everyone as an individual outside of the whole and adjust accordingly. However, if their behavior prevents them from acting on your messages, then they can deal with the fallout. Just remember to record all your communication attempts. That way, you’re prepared if they try to pin their issues on you. 

Cultural Barriers

Different cultures have different ways of communicating. While language is a part of it, there’s also the matter of customs, traditions, and rules for the people. 

For example, pointing at the moon may seem like a harmless gesture. But, for the people of Taiwan, it’s a gesture that can incur the wrath of the moon goddess. And you don’t want to do that- not if you like your ears. 

Cultural differences can break down lines of communication when you’re trying to tell them they can’t do something in your country that’s part of the normal in theirs, and vice versa.

To combat cultural barriers, do some research. You can check out their culture, ask them appropriate questions, and learn how to communicate in ways they understand. Additionally, offer information on your culture so they can help you bridge the gap, use encouraging tones and facial expressions, and always take their fears into consideration.  

Language Barriers

English may be one of the international trade languages, but not everyone knows how to speak it effectively. And, if you can’t understand the same language, you won’t be able to communicate. 

To combat language barriers, look into a translator. Google translate can get the job done in a pinch, but finding someone who speaks both languages and is willing to help you translate is worth their weight in gold.

Environmental Barriers

Finally, the physical situations of the people involved can cause barriers. Their computer may restrict access to the popular messaging platform, their phone may not have enough signal for the video meeting, or they may be in a construction zone and can’t hear you. 

To combat environmental barriers, try to make your messages accessible through different avenues (social media, email, Teams, etc.). Schedule your meeting when the others can take them in a distraction-free setting, and make sure any on-site location is comfortable and secure. Once they feel safe in their environment, they’ll be more willing to communicate. 

These barriers can prevent healthy communication, but they’re not the end of the world. Take a moment to breathe, check if you’re using the right communication style, and adjust your tactics accordingly. Then, you’ll be breaking those barriers in no time!

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