10 Barriers to Effective Communication

“Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.” - André Gide (French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947).

Barriers to Effective Communication

Sometimes, somewhere between the moment someone speaks and another responds, communication becomes broken.

We’ve all been there. A conversation, or even an online chat or string of mobile texts, leads to a terrible misunderstanding and all of a sudden all hopes for reaching an agreement go right out the window. What happened?

 Most Common Barriers to Effective Communication

1. Physical Barriers: this has to do with poor or outdated equipment used during communications, background noise, poor lighting, temperatures that are too hot or too cold.

2. Attitudes: emotions like anger or sadness can taint objectivity. Also being extremely nervous, having a personal agenda or “needing to be right no matter what” can make communications less than effective. This is also known as “Emotional Noise”.

Faulty IS_Barriers to Effective Communication

3. Language: this can seem like an easy one, but even people speaking the same language can have difficulty understanding each other if they are from different generations or from different regions of the same country. Slang, professional jargon and regional colloquialisms can even hurt communicators with the best intentions.

4. Physiological Barriers: ill health, poor eyesight or hearing difficulties, pain.

5. Problems with Structure Design: companies or institutions can have organization structures that are not clear, which can make communications difficult. Also to blame for faulty communications are bad information systems, and lack of supervision or training of the people involved.

6. Cultural Noise: people sometimes make stereotypical assumptions about others based on their cultural background.

7. Lack of Common Experience: it’s a great idea to use examples or stories to explain a point that is being discussed. However, if the speaker and the audience cannot relate to these examples because they do not have the same knowledge or have not shared the same experiences then this tool will be ineffective.

8. Ambiguity and Abstractions Overuse: leaving things half-said, using too many generalizations, proverbs or sayings, can all lead to communications that are not clear and that can lend themselves to misinterpretations.Info Overload_Barriers Effective Communication

9. Information Overload: it takes time to process a lot of information and too many details can overwhelm and distract the audience from the important topics. Keep it Simple, Sweetie.

10. Assumptions and Jumping to Conclusions: This can make someone reach a decision about something before listening to all the facts.

All of these barriers to effective communication can either distract those involved or otherwise hinder your communications. Make sure they’re not in the way of making your point crystal-clear!

Now What?

Now, you can move on to learn the Keys to Effective Communication and begin your path to improving your communications skills!

Here are also some great books on the subject that you may want to check out:

Can’t Get Through: Eight Barriers to Communication The Psychology of Persuasion: How To Persuade Others To Your Way Of Thinking



Other Useful Resources:
Wikipedia - Barriers to effective human communication

16 Responses to “10 Barriers to Effective Communication”

  1. Thanks,this page really helped me to know the barriers to effective communication.

  2. Elda Willingham says:

    I stumbled over here from a different page and thought I may as well check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking over your web page for a second time.

  3. George says:

    It occurs to me that the problem in this area is far too heavily weighted against the person initiating the communication when most of the blame lies in the listener. For some reason listening has become a psychics skill of rapid anticipation of what each word means and they process it through an array of filters that leads to them completely misconstruing what the actual communication was.

    For example – person A simply asks: What time is it?
    Person B processes this seemingly innocent request to know the time and presumptively assumes that the person asking is about to blame them for being late on something and fires back – Why are you asking me?
    Person A now accurately deduces – person B is very sensitive about being asked what time it is, so I will never ask that question again, I’ll buy a watch.

    Obviously the guilty party is Person B. However Person B will then complicate the process by telling everyone else that Person A was being mean to them and starts everyone else with a predisposition against anything Person A may tell them.

    Why is this happening???

    It’s not like there is a course in college or high school or elementary school that teaches defensive listening that teaches everyone to listen with an anticipation that all communication is aimed at blaming them for something. I can’t really put my finger on why it is happening, but it is causing a massive failure of communication that leads to all the current problems like depression, anger and hostility. This is affecting people at all levels from their closest loved ones to their work relationships and it is glaringly obvious in the political and media world.

    Why do I say it is the listener’s fault? Well it would seem impossible for the speaker to know what filters the listener may be employing at that point in time. The more the listener tends to be this way the less beneficial any communication will be in the future because pele just stop talking to them, or they substantially alter what they would have otherwise told them. We communicate to get ideas and information from one person to one or more other people. It was intended to be a wrongful thing but has lately become the bane of existence.

    Knowing the problem – what is the solution? I don’t know – everyone attacks me back when I try to talk about it.

    • Melissa says:

      HI George, you bring up a key point that I try to highlight on this website. Active listening is a crucial element in making communications effective.

      The person on the receiving end of the communication must learn to listen without judgement or taking things too personally. The person giving the message must also learn to convey opinions and information without using an accusing or blaming tone (unless, of course, this is the intention!). Both sides of the communication must have an agreement from the beginning (even if it is only implicit) that the goal is to share information, opinions and ideas in a safe environment and to agree jointly on a subsequent action. This is the ideal goal of an effective communication.

      • irfan haider says:

        Dear Melissa
        I have seen ur website and there u write about barriers to communication and i learn it carefully and improve and get help from it. i m very thankful to u. Now i wanna ask u some questions about how i can build communication skills. i m waiting for ur kind reply.

        • Melissa says:

          Thank you for your message. I am glad my website has helped you learn about the different ways to improve your communication skills.

          If you feel you need to further improve your skills you can look into the several resources I recommend on this site (books, courses, other articles, videos). Like many other skills, learning to communicate effectively requires time, practice, acquiring the right knowledge and putting yourself in situations where you can use your newly learned skills until they feel like second nature.

          Best of luck to you!

          • willey says:

            thank you for good explaination in above and i appriciate this ways to improve communication skills. all the best

  4. Kate says:

    The biggest problem I find is that the tone of an email or text can be taken very differently from how you wrote it. I’ve sent what I thought to be funny texts only to get surly replies and the same has happened at work. I’m now very careful and will sometimes get someone else to read an important email before I send it.

    • Melissa says:

      Oooh, that has happened to me too! And then you have to send another text/sms to explain yourself. It can all get very awkward. I find myself being extra careful with texts, especially when I send them to people that I am just starting to get to know, in order to avoid misunderstandings. :)

  5. All the best and thanks alot for making learning easier though your efforts from pet.muh20@yahoo.com

  6. Tracey P says:

    #6 is a big one. Before I quit my job last year there was much talk of cultural differences. How some cultures must have a 20 minute family discussion at the start of a meeting where a westerner will be tapping their fingers and saying “get on with it!”. At the time I thought it was all another thing to bear in corporate life. 12 months later, having travelled through 16 countries I’ve seen first hand the differences and can now fully appreciate the extent some people will have to adjust. Some cultures even shake their head for “yes”. This is very hard to get used to and causes many misunderstandings!

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Tracey.

      It is definitely advisable to do a little research before traveling or before doing business with a foreign counterpart to understand more about the ways and customs of the other culture.

      As they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans”, and if you insult the Romans with a particular hand gesture or expression, you may find yourself having trouble closing a deal, or getting a table at a restaurant…

  7. Krista Brown says:

    Great article, and I love how you even made book recommendations. I just get so frustrated with people sometimes because they can’t communicate properly, but neither can I. So arguments just become escalated. Anyway, I find this site SO helpful and I hope you continue to educate people on effective communication. I’ve bookmarked and shared this :)

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