Define Barriers to Communication

by Liz Gold; Updated April 05, 2018

When you are running a business, barriers to communication can run rampant. In a culture where there are many demands on our time and attention, it becomes increasingly important to communicate clearly and succinctly with stakeholders, employees and customers. Identifying barriers to communication head on, and addressing any issues as they come up, will help you in the long run as you grow your business.

Know Your Audience

One of the most significant barriers of communication is not knowing who you are trying to reach. Determine your target audience, whether you are sending an email communication to your customers, relaying some troubling news to your executive team or lending an ear to one of your employees. Ask yourself, what am I trying to communicate right now? Am I communicating this in the most respectful way possible? Is the other party available to receive this information? Checking in with yourself with these questions can make your interaction more successful.

Consider Culture

One challenging barrier to communication can be based on culture. Cultural communication barriers arise when differing, mentally closed cultural groups merge. A group’s way of seeing things dominates other potential perspectives, shutting down communication and causing conflict. This is where respect plays a big part in building bridges. Be mindful of expressions, gestures and religious and political beliefs associated with different cultures as you converse so your message does not get misconstrued. It's also important to check your generalizations and stereotypes about any cultural groups before jumping to any conclusions. How people think, react and see the world can vary widely because of culture.

Keep it Simple

Another common barrier to communication is trying to make a good impression. Be yourself. Ditch the jargon or formal vocabulary in exchange for personal stories and clear, concise language. Be friendly, warm and genuine. If it's a professional relationship, you can maintain your boundaries while still remaining sensitive to the issue at hand.

Listen More

When we're passionate or have a lot to say about a particular topic we can sometimes get stuck on our own agenda. This is a barrier to communication because we are thinking about what we are going to say next, instead of doing what we are supposed to be doing, which is listening. Listening well isn't easy; there can be external distractions in our environment, we may be emotionally triggered by certain words the speaker is using or we may be experiencing information overload. If any of these reasons are preventing you from listening, slow the speaker down and be honest. The idea is to exchange information and if you are missing what is being said, it's not only a disadvantage to you, but it can be disrespectful to the person speaking.

Be Affirming

It's important to acknowledge other people's experiences and respond accordingly. Watch body language and emotions as well as listen to the words being exchanged. Be respectful of the information you receive and any feelings that arise. Ask questions, be positive and provide helpful and supportive feedback when you can.

Communication is a two-way process. It may not be possible to achieve ideal communication but it is possible to diminish barriers. Remember, insufficient communication can leave people confused and feeling "out of the loop" while excessive communication can lead to information overload. Pay attention, strike a balance and be open to feedback.

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