Effective Communication - Barriers

Communication, as we have learnt, is the lifeline of an organization. A slight disturbance in the smooth flow of communication, downward and upward, horizontal and vertical, etc., may cost dear for the organization.

Effective communication is of utmost importance in a business organization in order to provide the desired information on time and with accuracy to develop understanding and good interpersonal and interdepartmental relationship in it. As a result efforts towards achieving organizational objectives can be made collectively, effectively and efficiently.

What are Barriers?

Barriers refer to obstacles or hindrances that prevent movement, flow and access of information in or outside of an organization.

In the lexicon of communication, barriers refer to specific items that can distort or prevent communication within an organization. It affects effective exchange of ideas, thoughts and information.

In a nutshell, anything that hinders the process of communication at any level is a barrier to effective communication.

Barriers can be originated at any point in the communication process.

  • They can be caused by the sender.

  • They may be found in the message transmission media.

  • They may arise while receiving the message.

  • There may be problems in receiver’s comprehending the message, etc.

Let us briefly discuss the sources of these barriers.

Barriers Caused By the Sender

The success of communication of a particular content substantially depends upon the sender, because he is the person who works on the drafts and finalizes the message to be sent. He/she is the originator of the communication.

The sender needs to be extremely while drafting or executing the communication to avoid allowing barriers into the process.

The sender-generated barriers are as follows −

  • Lack of knowledge or insufficient ideas about the receiver.

  • Negative attitude or lack of interest towards message; unwilling to communicate it.

  • Negativity towards the receiver.

  • Inappropriate choice of communication channel or medium by the sender in transmitting the message.

  • Poor communication skills of the sender like use of improper and high sounding words; grammatical errors, verbosity and unwanted use of idioms, phrases, jargons or slangs, etc.

  • Inability to decide the proper timing for communicating the message.

  • Indecisiveness to choose the content of the message to be communicated; it kills the effectiveness of the communication.

  • Prejudice, that is, starting any piece of communication with a bias or know-it-all attitude can prove to be quite detrimental to the growth of communication process.

  • Lack of concern for feedback from the receiver; it thwarts the intent of the communication.

Barriers in Message Transmission

The barriers related to message transmission are as follows −

  • Things that come in the way of smooth transmission of message are called barriers in message transmission.

Message transmission is disturbed because of the following barriers −

Physical Barriers

Distortion − It occurs when the meaning of the message is the lost while encoding and decoding the message. Physical distrations are also there such as, poor lightning, uncomfortable sitting, unhygienic room also affects communication in meeting

Noise − It is found in the environment of communication and interrupts the communication process. Use of loud speakers interferes with communication

Overflow of Information − This acts like a barrier when the receiver does not have the capacity to receive all the information and can miss some important points or misinterpret the meaning of the whole message altogether

Barriers from Message

Messaage or the subject matter of communication is the key factor in making effective communication a success.

The language used therein, the wordings, the preciseness and the timing count a lot for the success of communication.

For instance, if the message contains many jargons and slangs when communicating with someone who has never heard such expression, it will not be understood by the recipient.

Lack of proper time to draft the written message is likely to have a harmful effect on the content of the message.For instance, if a supervisor requests a report immediately without giving the report writer enought time to gather the required information, it results in conflicting message.

Channel Barriers

Choice of appropriate and viable channel for communicating is of utmost importance in communicating.

If the sender chooses an inappropriate channel of communication, communication may cease.

Channel could be spoken word,printing word,electronic media, or even non-verbal cues such as signs, gestures,body language, facial expression,etc.in modern communication parlance, the word channel mostly refers to mass communication such as newspaper, radio, television, telephone, computer, internet, apps.

Detalaied instruction presents over the telephone, for instance, may be functioning for both communicators.the instruction should be put in black and white and be sent through mail, published in newspapers, etc.

Long communication chain

Communication is likely to get affected when the communicated message passes through a long communication channel.

The longer the communication chain, the great the error. If a message is transmitted through too many receivers, the message often becomes distorted.

However, effective communication network with strong and updated communication channel, this barriers can be done away with.

Problems in Reception

Let us now see the different problems encountered in the reception of a message in the communication process. The problems are as follows −

  • The sending of a message is complete when the receiver at the other end receives it, understands it and then sends the desired feedback to the sender.

  • If there are problems in receiving the message, the whole purpose of sending the message is defeated.

  • The message is the vehicle for the sender to share feelings, thoughts, and ideas. It is the way the sender’s mental images are transmitted to the receiver.

  • The message can be immediately clear and understood, or murky and misleading, basing upon how well all of the components in the communication process have been considered and accommodated.

  • The meaning of the message is what the receiver assigns to it. If the sender has a different image and perception of the message in mind than that of the receiver about the sent message, the intent of message is distorted.

  • In fact, one of the major challenges of communication is to make sure that the meaning that is intended by the sender is the same as the meaning the receiver assigns to the message when it’s received.

Factors Creating Problem in Reception

  • Poor channel of communication through which the message is received.

  • Technical problems associated with the communicating mediums.

  • Not using some common tools for communications problem analysis.

  • Lack of language and semantic skills on the part of the recipient.

Problems in Receiver Comprehension

The receiver in the communication chain is as significant as the sender. The receiver’s understanding the message as desired by the sender is the basic goal of sending the message.

However, the problems sometime arise in receiver’s comprehending the message. Inability to comprehend on the part of the receiver leads to development of prejudices in the mind of the sender. It happens because of the following factors.

Receiver Comprehension

Dealing with Barriers to Effective Communication

Barriers in communication not only spoil the intent of the message but also in the long term affect smooth functioning and growth of the organization. It is rightly said that communication is the lifeline of a business organization irrespective of the latter’s size and reach.

Dealing with barriers in communication needs to be given topmost priority so that there will be a continuous and unperturbed communication in and outside the business.

In our subsequent sections, we will see how to deal with the different barriers to communication.

  • How to deal with barriers in non-verbal and verbal communication.

  • How to deal with barriers in written communication.

How to Deal with Barriers in Non-verbal Communication?

Dealing with barriers in non-verbal communication is not as easy as it seems. In case one’s nonverbal skills are poor, he/she may be sending wrong or negative message to the other.

The following are the way-outs for dealing with barriers in non-verbal communication −

  • Non-verbal communication is taken for granted in face-to-face conversations, but communicating is more than speaking and listening. It is these non-verbal elements of communication that can provide a great deal of information and can be an important means of learning.

  • Establishing a direct eye contact with the person(s) on other side; it not only increases your confidence level but also provides others with the comfort needed to communicate with you in return.

  • Have facial expression like a smiling face; it creates an amiable and pleasant environment between you and the listener(s).

  • It is important to remember that we communicate with our bodies as well as with our voice. Try NOT TO engage in gestures that will distract an audience, such as −

    • Wringing your hands (because of nervousness)

    • Keeping your hands in your pockets

    • Nervous pacing

    • Not moving at all

    • Leaning on a podium for the entire presentation

    • Constantly gesturing with a pen and or pencil

    • The habit of shuffling your papers or clicking a pen

    • Keeping your arms crossed (can indicate defensiveness)

    • Inappropriate laughter (can show anxiety)

How to Deal with Barriers in Verbal Communication?

We will now learn how to deal with barriers in verbal communication.

Verbal Communication

Barriers to Effective Listening

Barriers are threat to the success of effective communication. They make communication inaccessible, unintelligible thereby killing the prospect of its being effective.

How often has your mind wandered when someone was telling you something? This usually happens when the topic is discussion does not interest you. Sometimes the conversation may be too long and tedious.

Sometimes the topic of discussion may be interesting but the speaker is unable to grab your attention, or you may be unable to comprehend because of lack of knowledge of the topic or the vocabulary or language of the speaker.

There must be motivation and interest in a conversation to be able to listen effectively. However, even if there is motivation and interest, there might be some barriers that affect our ability to listen well.

We will discuss the barriers to effective listening in our subsequent sections.

Linguistic/Semantic Barriers

This is one of the most common barriers to listening. Learners of a language normally face this kind of barrier.

Unfamiliar Vocabulary

Words used by the speaker may not be familiar to you. The speaker may use difficult words and jargons. As a result you cannot comprehend what the speaker says.

Elements of Connected Speech

The speaker is too fast. There are very few pauses and the rhythm that might not be familiar to you. You fail to recognize familiar words because of contractions, reductions, linking. For example, the speaker says, “I scream” and you hear “ice-cream”.

Unable to Predict, Guess, and Interpret Meaning from the Context

A person who pays attention to sound structure would recognize that a rapidly spoken “Idrankitfirst” could mean either “I drank it first” or “I’d rank it first.” You should be able to recognize whether it is “I drank it first” or “I’d rank it first” from the context. Sometimes the speaker implies something but does not overtly express it. “That would be all, thank you” is a polite and indirect way of telling someone you do not need their services anymore instead of the more direct ‘You may leave now”. You guess the meaning from the context though the speaker does not overtly express what he or she wants.

Get Words but Lose Ideas

You lose track if you concentrate on each and every word the speaker says, especially if you need to do it for a long period. As a result you may understand the meaning of almost all the words but do not get the gist. You do not distinguish the important information from the unimportant.

Socio-Cultural Barriers

The socio-cultural barriers also hamper effective listening.

Different Cultural Background

The speaker’s accent and pronunciation of words are not familiar to you because of difference in cultures between you and the speaker.

Unfamiliar Subject

The subject may not be familiar to you because you are not familiar with a particular culture or are unaware of the lifestyle of a particular society.

Psychological Barriers

In this section, we will discuss the different psychological barriers to effective listening

Forming opinions and drawing conclusions before listening

It is not a bad idea to know the purpose of your listening. But you may form opinions about the speaker even before he or she speaks.

You may make assumptions about the subject to be spoken about and draw conclusions even before the speaker speaks. This may block your mind and as a result you will not be able to listen.

Lack of interest in the topic

You may not listen if you do not have any interest in the speaker’s topic.

Inability to pay attention

Day dreaming and a wandering mind may prevent you from listening.


You may refuse to listen to something, which goes against your ideas and beliefs. You hear only what you want to hear.

Physical Barriers

Physical barriers also hinder effective listening. Let us see what these physical barriers are.

Noisy surroundings

The environment may be too noisy, which may affect listening.

Physical distance

You may be too far away from the speaker or too close to the speaker to be able to hear clearly.

How to deal with Barriers in Written Communication

Ineffective written communication may overturn everything fair intended in the content of message. It can prevent an applicant from landing in his/her dream job, one promotion, can cancel a deal, and may hamper the image of an organization.


Barriers in written communication entirely distort the content of the message sent and results in communication breakdown.

It is therefore essential to cope with the barrier in written communication in order to ensure that effective communication is established.

The following are the necessary ways to deal with such barriers.

Right People

  • People who are adept in spoken and written language should be given top priority at the time of recruitment in any organization.

  • Proper training for enhancing effective communicating skills of the newcomers and also of the existing employees should be ensured regularly.

  • People drafting communication content should be well-versed in spoken and written language.

Right Language

  • Simplicity, lucidity and correctness should be emphasized in all organizational written communication.

Right Presentation

  • Make your presentation or writing almost error-free.

  • Avoid stuffing the message with silly errors like ‘loose’ in place of ‘lose’; ‘there’ in place of ‘their’; ‘too’ in place of ‘to’, etc. Always edit and spellcheck the content before its finalization.

Right Content

  • Focus on what the message really intends to communicate; avoid dilly dallying with topic for correspondence.

  • The content needs to be precise, short and meaningful.

Right Sequence

  • The written message should be written in sequence denoting proper meaning and order of matter presented therein.

Right Channel

  • Considering the content and timing of the message, the communicator should choose the most appropriate channel to transmit the message.

  • If it is confidential or carries any sensitive information, it should be sent through such medium which provides greater security, for instance, encrypted email.

Right Feedback

  • Inappropriate or wrong feedback defeats the purpose of the message sent. It results in communication breakdown.

  • Hence, the message should be written in a desired manner and sent through appropriate channel so as to ensure early feedback from the recipient.

Effective Communication – Elements of Poor Communication

Lack of effective communication across and beyond a business organization is termed as poor communication. It afflicts the free flow of ideas, employee productivity, staff cooperation, innovation and ultimately upset overall efficiency of human resources of the organization.

Poor communication elements are found in all types of communication. We have learnt about these barriers in our previous chapters.

Reasons for Poor Communication

The flowchart given below shows the different reasons for poor communication −

Poor Communication

Besides, lack of commitment among the workforce, inexperienced staff, feeling of fear and dissatisfaction, unconscious incompetence among the employees and the managers can also result in poor communication.

Consequences of Poor Communication

Poor communication can have disastrous effect on the workforce and also on the overall productivity and efficiency of the organization.

The following are some of the consequences of poor communication in business organizations.

  • Inability on the part of the recipient to understand the message leads to confusion and misunderstanding.

  • Poor communication affects the concentration of the listener in oral communication that defeat the meaning of the message.

  • Poor communication results in ambiguity that distorts the content of the message or spoken words.

  • Poor communication results in ambiguity that distorts the content of the message or spoken words.

  • It leads to incomplete action as the content of the message sent or spoken is not grasped by the recipients.

  • Poor communication between the business and customers affect sales and ultimately hampers the growth of the business.

  • Poor communication between the management and the employee can lead to de-motivation and affect overall productivity. Employees become unwilling to work with the managers who communicate poorly.

  • Poor communication between the management and the employee can lead to de-motivation and affect overall productivity. Employees become unwilling to work with the managers who are poor communicators.

  • Loss of working hours as instruction provided and messages sent are beyond the grasp of the recipients or the employees.

  • Poor communication often leads to frustration among the employees in an organization.

  • People may feel left out if communication is not open and effective.

  • Poor communication can lead to many types of conflicts which kills the prospect of organizational growth and prosperity.


  • Communication, as we have learnt, is the lifeline of an organization. A slight disturbance in the smooth flow of communication, downward and upward, horizontal and vertical, etc., may cost dear for the organization.

  • Barriers refer to obstacles or hindrances that prevent movement, flow and access of information in or outside of an organization.

  • There are different sources of barriers −

    • Barriers Caused By the Sender

    • Barriers in Message Transmission

    • Problems in Reception

  • The barriers to effective listening are −

    • Linguistic/Semantic Barriers

    • Socio-Cultural Barriers

    • Psychological Barriers

    • Physical Barriers

  • Ways to deal with barriers in written communication −

    • Right people

    • Right language

    • Right presentation

    • Right content

    • Right sequence

    • Right channel

    • Right feedback

  • Lack of effective communication across and beyond a business organization is termed as poor communication.

  • Poor communication can have disastrous effect on the workforce and also on the overall productivity and efficiency of the organization.

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