Seven Barriers to Communication

by Nicole Papa ; Updated September 26, 2017
A communication barrier is anything that  prohibits a message from being sent or received.

A communication barrier is any element that inhibits or distorts a message, according to the University of Ohio. When you engage in conversation, there is a mixture of verbal and nonverbal communication that helps to define the message you’re sending. For example, if you’re telling someone that they’re doing a good job, based on your vocal tone and inflection, you could either be encouraging them or expressing sarcasm. When a communication barrier is present, the communication is not effective because the message is not properly sent or appropriately received.


Jargon is language, usually technical, that is meaningful to a specific group or culture but could be meaningless to outsiders. For example, if someone who works in an IT department is attempting to explain to the CEO of the company why the network stopped working and uses terms that only an expert would understand, the CEO will not receive the message.

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions can seriously interfere with a verbal message--or communicate something else entirely. Examples of facial expressions that can act as a barrier are the rolling of the eyes, furrowing of the brow--or no expression at all..

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Paralanguage is the tone, inflection or volume used to express a message, according to communication specialist Lee Hopkins. For example, if a person is talking loudly, it could be perceived as frustration , which can cause the listener to put up defenses and not hear the message. A person could make a positive statement with words, but send a hurtful message if the words are delivered in a sarcastic tone.

Wrong Channel or Setting

Every message travels from the sender to the receiver along a channel such as an email, telephone or in a set venue like a corporate meeting. For example, if you need to correct wrong behavior in an individual, it would be ineffective to use a public meeting to do so. This could create barriers between the leadership and the rest of the employees. Another example would be to send confrontational email or text. Confrontation is always dealt with best in person.

Body Language

Body language is the use of the physical body to send messages. This could be a body position, stance or action. For example, if you're talking with someone who has his back toward you, it's likely he is not listening. Another example is when someone puts her head between her hands while you're speaking. This indicates frustration, discouragement or being overwhelmed by your words.

Lack of Feedback

When a person does not provide any feedback, it can cause a communication barrier. For example, if an employee never receives any feedback from management, she may think she is doing a bad job and may become insecure and shy in her communication.


Lack of clarity or vague messages leave the recipient with confusion. For example, if someone says, “Get that thing over there.” Failing to define “that thing” or "over there" makes it difficult to comply with the order.

About the Author

Nicole Papa has been a freelance writer since 2004 with a focus on SEO and Internet marketing. She has written for instinctmarketing.com and JOLT! Marketing. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in mass media communications, and from the University of Texas with an associate degree in theater performance.

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