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Communication Barriers

Communication Barriers
Microsoft, 2014

For small business owners, communication barriers can impede the delivery of a clear and concise message to clients, customers and employees.

According to Kevin Hogan, author of Can't Get Enough: Eight Barriers to Communication, failure to make a great first impression, ignoring non-verbal signs and signals, and negative emotions can hinder communication.

Barriers to communication can be grouped into two main categories: physical barriers and psychological barriers. Within each category, there are several sub-types of communication barriers.

Physical Barriers

Physical barriers to communication can range from architectural obstructions, such as a closed door or poorly-designed office space, to language or gender.

Physical distractions can also interfere with effective communication. A noisy restaurant, static-filled phone line, technical glitch in a PowerPoint presentation or interruption in a scheduled program or commercial can render the intended audience unable to receive or concentrate on the message being delivered.

With regard to written or print forms of communication, such as emails, brochures, reports and business cards, clashing colors, typos and misprints also present communication barriers.

Psychological Barriers

Psychological barriers to communication are a bit more complex than physical barriers, as they can include lack of sensitivity toward the receiver, differences in perceptions, emotional barriers, and cultural barriers.

Lacking sensitivity toward the audience and perceptual differences can result in a breakdown in communication. Each form of communication should come from a place of knowledge about the audience’s needs, interests and knowledge of the subject matter.

When a presenter misses an opportunity to identify the sensitivities of his audience, the audience often misreads or distrusts the message being conveyed.

If a presenter or audience member is angry, irritated, resentful, fearful, overly-excited, or otherwise emotionally compromised, these emotions can create communication barriers, as the person on the receiving end may be too preoccupied with his feelings to actually receive the message.

Cultural barriers may also present significant barriers to communication. There are many idiosyncrasies buried beneath cultural communication styles. Tone, word choice, level of eye contact, expected amount of physical space between people, and sense of humor can vary greatly between cultural groups.

Furthermore, when one or more people from different cultures represented in an exchange carries feelings of inferiority, superiority and deeply-rooted prejudices about one's own or another person's place in the world can cloud an intended message.

Overcoming Communication Barriers

Researching the culture, sensitivities, and proclivities of the receiving audience is an important first step to overcoming communication barriers. Additionally, seeking input and constructive criticism from family, friends and colleagues can also alert the presenter to typos, misprints, misstates, ahead of his presentation.

Finally, a presenter should seek feedback from his audience to see if/how the message was received and what improvements can be made in the future.

There are many great resources available to anyone looking to overcome communication barriers, including the following: