The Barriers to Effective Communication

“A barrier to communication is something that keeps meanings from meeting. Meaning barriers exist between all people, making communication much more difficult than most people seem to realize. It is false to assume that if one can talk he can communicate” (Windle & Warren, nd). Communication is a process by which information is transmitted from one person (sender) to another (receiver).

Before the message reaches the receiver, errors in transmission occur. It is estimated by psychologists that in every communication, there is approximately 40-60% meaning loss (Jenkins, 2007).

It is therefore essential to know the various barriers that cause communication breakdown and possibly try to minimize these errors if we are to make our communication more meaningful. The core barriers The greatest barrier towards communicating effectively is stereotyping. This preconception on another person makes one view the other’s communication with a lot of prejudice. There is a tendency to wrongly hold a person’s views. There are stereotypes in all walks of life such as religion, gender and race.

In racial stereotyping for example, a person’s believe to be more knowledgeable than the other because of skin color makes him or her disregard the other’s communication. This eventually breaks down the communication (OPPapers, 2010). There are a number of people who tend to assume that the people they are talking to know their thoughts. Such misjudgments are very dangerous to communication. An article by Effective-communicating, The importance of effective communication states that, “When you assume, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’ (Effective Communicating, 2008).

Insufficient knowledge on the specific subject of communication can lead to errors on communication. If the person sending the message falls short of words in the information to be transmitted, the receiver is exposed to an unclear message that is mixed-up. On the other hand, the receiver may fail to understand information that is beyond his or her knowledge. It may be very hard for a teacher to understand scientific terms used by a scientist in any form of communication (College of Marin, nd). In relation to knowledge, language can pose a great danger to communication.

There are many languages as people are from different backgrounds. Use of a language that the recipient does not understand will not pass the message. The different dialects and accents also create barriers. There may exist semantic gaps where words have same pronunciation but with a multiple of meanings. Some people tend to use inappropriate words in specific contexts and difficult vocabularies. The receiver will not be mesmerized but will be left in total confusion (Jain, 2010). Information overload is another barrier towards effective communication. A message that is too crowded with words tends to be misunderstood.

Receivers tend to create barriers under these circumstances. A lecturer from collage of Marine on Barriers to effective communication advises that, “If you are selling an item with twenty five terrific features, pick two or three important features to emphasize instead of overwhelming your receiver (ho-hum) with an information avalanche. ” (College of Marin, nd). Emotional interference leads to misunderstandings in communication. A person who is overexcited, angry, fearful, hostile, or resentful may be very much emotionally preoccupied to give or receive the right message.

In case of dislike, ‘hearing’ will be a great problem. Emotional distractions create interference with creation, transmission and reception (College of Marin, nd). Emotions if given a chance will show up always and they become a barrier when they make people get overwhelmed (People Communicating, 2009). Physical distractions occur amidst communication. A noisy environment or a bad telephone line disrupts the receiver of the message from hearing. Distractions are also possible with written messages especially when it is poorly formatted, has spelling errors and grammatical deficits.

The physical appearance of the message will be too unprofessional and sloppy. The receiver’s concentration to such messages will be put off. Bright lights especially when one is using a computer can distract the receiver in getting the correct message (College of Marin, nd). Physical barriers can also be created by the geographical location. For example, at a workplace, employees in different quarters will have difficulty in communicating effectively (Margaritasmith, 2009). The sender may lack the basic communication skills.

The receiver will greatly be affected in the interpretation of the intended message when the sender is faced with a problem in choosing the words needed and arranging them in a comprehensive manner. Others tend to rehearse on what they will say especially after scrutinizing who the speaker is. For instance, many students who lack good communication skills will first rehearse on what to say before meeting a teacher. On the other side of the coin, there are a great deal of receivers who have poor listening and reading skills. They have trouble in hearing and in the interpretation of messages (College of Marin, nd).

Personal lack of interest can pose a great threat to communication. A person who is disinterested will carelessly listen or hurriedly read the sent message, misinterpreting the intentions of the sender. Failure of the sender to recognize the needs and the status of the receiver affects communication also. The sender should therefore prepare a message with the trait of the receiver in mind. The medicine of an angry customer is listening to his complains for some time (College of Marin, nd). Inappropriate channel also leads to breakdown in communication.

For example, giving detailed procedures over the phone may be quite frustrating on the side of the decoder. A patient for instance, may choose to call a doctor to seek treatment. It would be illogical for the doctor to prescribe any treatment without a face to face encounter with the patient. The chain of communication may also affect the message; the greater the chain of communication, the higher the probability of its misinterpretation. For instance, if a sender uses a ten people chain to rely the message to the receiver, there is no doubt that the recipient will get a completely distorted message (College of Marin, nd).

A very long communication chain and a poor medium selected can break up the communication (Jain, 2010). Communication is two way. The sender must get feedback from the recipient. In conversations for instance, there must be turn-taking. If the sender does not give the recipient time to respond or ask questions, he or she may pretend to understand what the sender is saying. It is also important for the sender to interpret the receiver’s non-verbal cues as they carry a lot of meaning in any given communication. Failure to do so may cause ineffectiveness in communication (College of Marin, nd).

Effective communicators, as Boulden spells out in his book, communicating for success: The seven keys of effective communication “…work into building relationships by asking questions and listening to the answers to gain information and use this process to reach consensus” (Boulden, 2009) Other barriers that affect communication include socio-cultural diversities such as age, gender, social status, educational level, economic status, cultural background, and religion.

They as well affect communication (Jain, 2010). In different cultures for instance certain gestures are interpreted differently and therefore communication can be misunderstood (Ueeka, 2009). Conclusion Barriers of communication seem to be part of our lives. However careful we are in our communications errors in communication will always be felt. Some barriers are complex to deal with and may be beyond our capabilities.

All that we need to do to alleviate this problem is to try and minimize our faults in communication.


  • Boulden, G. (2009). Communication for success: The seven keys of effective communication.
  • London: Ala International Publishing College of Marin. (nd).
  • Lecture: barriers to effective communication. Retrieved from http://www. marin. edu/buscom/index_files/Page565. htm Effective Communicating. (2008). The importance of effective communication. Retrieved from http://www. effective-communicating. com/importance-of-effective-communication. html.
  • Jain, R. (2010). The barriers to effective communication. Retrieved from http://ezinearticles. com/? The-Barriers-to-Effective-Communication&id=1210011 Jenkins, M. (2007). Barriers to effective communication at work. Retrieved from http://www. alliancetac. com/? PAGE_ID=265 OPPapers. (2010).
  • Barriers to effective communication. Retrieved from http://www. oppapers. com/essays/Barriers-Effective-Communication/77841? topic People Communicating. (2009). Barriers to effective communication. Retrieved from http://www. people-communicating. com/barriers-to-effective-communication. html.
  • Margaritasmith. (2009). Barriers to effective communication- Effective communication- Document transcript. Retrieved from http://www. slideshare. net/margaritasmith/barriers-to-effective-communication-effective- communications Ueeka. (2009).
  • Overcoming potential barriers in effective communication. Retrieved from http://www. ueeka. com/docs/overcoming-potential-barriers-effective-communication. html Windle, R. & Warren, S. (nd). Communication skills. Retrieved from http://www. directionservice. org/cadre/section4. cfm.

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