Within business, noise refers to a barrier that slows down or reduces the efficacy of communication. Noise can be on the sender’s end, affecting how they are able to transmit the message to the receiver. The noise can also take place at the receiver’s end, affecting how they interpret the message. It’s vital to understand the different types of noise in business communication so you can reduce misinformation and misunderstandings within the workplace.

Types of Noise

There are four main types of noise:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Semantic
  • Physiological

Each kind of noise is a unique barrier to communication and requires a different kind of resolution. By identifying which kind of noise is affecting communication in the workplace, you can resolve the interference by removing the specific barrier.

Physical Noise

The most common noise business definition is literal. Examples of this type of noise include many people talking at once in a small meeting room or boisterous activity in the lunch room. Literal noise in business communication makes it difficult for the people involved in the conversation to hear what the other person is saying. Whenever possible, move the conversation away from the literal noise or attempt to reduce the amount of noise. You can ask people to quiet down in the meeting room or move the conversation to a quieter location than the lunch room, for example.

Physical noise can also include environmental sounds from around the office. Examples include construction workers digging up the road outside your window or an ambulance driving by with the siren on. This kind of noise can be distracting during important conversations. Reduce the amount of interference by closing the windows or moving to another room when possible.

Literal noise doesn’t always have to be auditory. Sometimes, visual distractions can also act as noise. For example, visiting a web page with several pop-up ads can be a form of visual noise because they distract the reader from understanding the message.

Psychological Noise

Psychological noise refers to internal thoughts, attitudes and preconceived notions that affect how we focus, listen to and interpret messages. Emotions such as sadness, worry and frustration can interfere with message transmission. For example, if you’re worried about losing your job, you may not fully focus on what your manager is telling you about your performance review.

Positive emotions can also cause psychological noise. Extreme excitement or anticipation can affect the way we process information. If your spouse just went into labor, for example, it might be difficult to concentrate in a project meeting. Sometimes, it’s not possible to eliminate psychological noise. When that’s the case, it’s best to deal with the emotions and events that result in psychological noise first so that you can concentrate on work later.

Semantic Noise

Semantic noise in business communication refers to differences in understanding of the words that are used. This could be as a result of technical industry information or jargon that isn’t understood by one of the people in the conversation. Language barriers can also cause semantic noise, as can cultural differences in the way words are used.

When dealing with a semantic noise barrier, it’s best to try to clarify the situation as early as possible within the conversation. For example, if you’re speaking with a customer that isn’t familiar with the technical specifications of your product, illustrating the components or showing them a picture of the product may help to clarify the message.

Physiological Noise

Physiological noise in business communication can refer to physical impairments such as deafness or blindness which affect the way people send and receive messages. Many business environments offer tools that help those with impairments communicate with their colleagues. When working with someone who speaks sign language, for example, you can learn important words and phrases to help in communicating with them.

This kind of noise can also refer to other physical symptoms that interfere with communication, such as medication side effects, exhaustion or pain. Often, these types of physiological noises cannot be avoided. In some cases, the business may need to allow the employee to head home to rest to ensure their safety and eliminate any risks for the company.