Barriers to Effective Interpersonal Communication

by Noreen Wainwright; Updated September 26, 2017
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English is a complex language, with many words having several meanings. This increases potential for misunderstanding and breakdowns in communication. One way of looking at communication barriers is to divide them into internal and external barriers, or environmental barriers. It is important to be aware of all the possible barriers to communication, and to consider how these can be overcome, so that effective interaction can take place either in business or at a personal level.

Psychological Barriers

Psychological barriers may include shyness or embarrassment. Sometimes, a person may present herself as being abrupt or difficult when she may actually be nervous. One person's stereotyped views of the other party or the group he belongs to may also provide a barrier to communication. If she is already prejudiced before meeting him, this will cause a barrier.

Cultural Barriers

Acceptable styles of communication vary between cultures. In some societies physical gestures are extravagant, and touch is more acceptable. In these societies, it is generally acceptable to hug and touch a person's arm when you are speaking to him. In other societies this would be unacceptable. Some religions have a taboo about members of the opposite sex communicating and particularly touching. Casual hugging and kissing would be completely unacceptable.

Language Barriers

A communication barrier may be present because the parties do not share a common language. Interpreters and translators may be used to good effect in these circumstances. If a person is deaf or visually impaired, this presents an obvious barrier that needs to be addressed prior to the meeting. Speech impediments or dysphasia as a result of a stroke or other brain problem can present a barrier. The use of jargon and over-complicated language creates barriers to communication.

Environmtal Barriers

Environmental barriers to communication can include noise and lack of privacy. An environment which is too hot or cold will not be conducive to effective communication. Some places of business are busy with many distractions, such as constantly ringing telephones and other messaging systems.

About the Author

Noreen Wainwright has been writing since 1997. Her work has appeared in "The Daily Telegraph," "The Guardian," "The Countryman" and "The Lady." She has a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences from Liverpool Polytechnic and a postgraduate law degree from Staffordshire University.

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