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Barriers To Communication: How To Overcome Them

Dr. P.Eliah
Professor in English,
GRIET, Hyderabad

Communication especially technical communication is a two-way ongoing process. Transmission and reception of a message constitute an integral part of communication. A successful communication requires understanding and feedback from the participants.
The message may be verbal, non-verbal or written. The receiver gets the message and understands it according to his own frame of mind. In case there is lack of understanding between the sender and the receiver of the message, it may result in misunderstanding or mis-communication. The distracting force between the communicators is both physical and psychological. The distracting force constitutes the barriers in the communication process between the co-communicators. These barriers hamper the process of smooth, meaningful and effective communication. Let’s identify the barriers in detail.

  1. Bad construction and presentation of a message will have a negative effect on the listener or co-communicator. Since he finds it difficult to understand the message, misunderstanding will arise.
  2. Sometimes owing to technical problems involving the medium of transmission, a part of the message may be lost. In such a case both the sender the receiver are the losers. This will result in confusion, lack of complete information and incoherence.
  3. Poor retention and lack of memory land both the communicators in confusion. Obviously they have lost track of what happened earlier. Such situations cause embarrassment to the communicators.
  4. Sometimes the communicators owing to the pressure of other demands cannot afford to concentrate on the message. They are inattentive, so they listen to each other’s message only partially or marginally. Obviously they are mentally or physically otherwise engaged. This may lead to misunderstanding or miscommunication.
  5. At times during the course of a message, the listener may try to evaluate or analyse the worthiness or otherwise of the points being raised by the speaker. Since it is not possible to concentrate on two things at a time, it will be difficult to understand the text of the message. So the listener must be attentive to the message. Only then can he evaluate or analyse the points raised by the speaker.
  6. If the speaker and the listener are not on the same wave length, and do not see eye to eye on different issues, there is no use in trying to transmit a message. Therefore before giving a message, the speaker must know the attitude, interests, the likes and dislikes of the listener. Otherwise the message will be a waste of time and energy.
  7. If the speaker tries to impose on the listener an idea which is entirely opposite of the idea that the listener already has, the listener will not pay heed to what the speaker says.
  8. Roundabout or circumlocutory speech consisting of difficult and abstract words will render the listener’s attempt to understand the speaker’s idea futile. The speaker must follow the rule of brevity and simplicity to make his communication effective.
  9. The amount of material to be transmitted to the listener should not be too much. If it is too much, the listener will be overloaded and overburdened. He will not be able to comprehend the information load beyond a certain limit. After all, what one want to transmit to a listener must be brief and clear. This will not tire the listener’s mind or exhaust his patience.
  10. Sometimes the status, position and experience of both the speaker and the listener may differ from each other’s. This will result in a mismatch between their levels of communication. Each one is in his own frame of mind. So there will be very little understanding between them. As a result, their communication will suffer.
  11. Personal prejudices hamper communication. If the listener adopts a negative attitude towards the speaker, saying that he is not a better speaker than himself, or what the speaker is saying is not relevant, it will create a barrier between the communicators. Then communication will suffer.
  12. Sometimes the speaker shows a superiority complex. He should treat the listener as an equal. After all, what the speaker wants is cooperation from the listener. Otherwise, communication will fail.
  13. Since change is the very process of life, the speaker and the listener should welcome it. They should not resist change. Accordingly, they should adopt a flexible attitude and tread on newer paths inviting fresh ideas. If the speaker and the listener refuse to change and stick to their old and outdated ideas, their communication will be hampered.
  14. Communication should not involve in specious arguments and rejections. Discussions are welcome but negative stands are not helpful. Hostility leads to miscommunication and hinder understanding. There should be harmonious relations between the speaker and the listener.
All the communication barriers as identified above, can be overcome with a conscious effort by observing the following rules.
  • Before initiating an interaction our ideas must be planned and clarified. In order to make our ideas clear, we may discuss them with others. We may also discuss our ideas with co-interactants.
  • Build a climate of trust and confidence between the interactants.
  • A time sense must be observed between the speaker and the listener so that the listener may understand and appreciate the speaker’s ideas.
  • Our speech and gestures must be consistent with each other.
  • In order to eliminate misunderstanding or miscommunication the speaker must adopt question-answer technique. The feedback from the listener is necessary to clear doubts.
  • Use simple language understandable to the listener.
  • The message must have a purpose and must be addressed to the listener.
    All said and done, effective communication observes certain do’s and don’ts.
    First of all, a message may be intended for the benefit of either the listener or the speaker himself. The co-communicators must choose an appropriate medium of transmission, namely, verbal, non-verbal or written. Ther should be no physical or psychological distractions or disturbances. Both the participants must listen attentively to each other so that they may not miss or misunderstand a point. The message must have a right amount without being too much or too little. The communicators must continuously train themselves in communication skills.
    Thus successful and effective communication, especially technical communication, requires a minimum of two interactants involved in transmission, reception and exchange of ideas observing certain well defined do’s and don’ts.
    Published on 2/2/2012
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