Communication is defined as the exchange of information between two or more persons or groups of people. In most relationships, including the ones nurtured among team members in companies, communication represents the key to successful collaboration and achieving goals. However, being a two-way street, communication requires a lot of effort and every side has to make contributions to ensure positive results.
In the modern-day world, effective communication can sometimes be hard to establish and maintain, especially in the workplace, which has mostly turned remote. Despite this, everyone should try to implement appropriate strategies and methods aimed at overcoming communication barriers as an inevitable part of their communication culture.
Forms of communication
To be able to employ effective tactics and methods to overcome any possible communication barriers, it’s important to first understand all forms of communication and what they enclose. Equipped with the right set of communication skills, most people can easily overcome communication obstacles that come their way and establish effective relationships with others. In view of that, we can make a distinction between verbal, written, and non-verbal communication.
Verbal communication encompasses the exchange of information through speaking, conversations, phone calls, and video chatting. More often than not, effective verbal communication is based on immediate responses and depends on the moment of speaking.
With the use of written communication, most of the messages that get exchanged are in the written form, so the whole process tends to be a bit slower than with verbal communication. This usually includes all forms of emails, documents, memos, etc.
The most sophisticated of the three, non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, body language, and the overall appearance. A lot can be conveyed through non-verbal communication and being a good communicator can sometimes depend entirely on this form of communication.
Common barriers to effective communication
Whenever there is a distortion or disruption to the flow of information, we can say that obstacles to communication exist. To ensure productivity and success, communication among people or groups of people has to function at all times. However, communication barriers can occur almost daily and affect teams’ interaction, so employers and employees should always think of possible techniques and methods to deal with workplace challenges to ensure effective communication. We can distinguish between seven different communication barriers:
Senders and receivers of certain information can sometimes encounter physical barriers to communication, mostly manifested in some environmental and natural conditions. These often include personal space, time and distance, work environment and design, background noise, and communication channel issues.
In some cases, people’s perceptions about other people, events, situations, and topics can be affected, creating a perceptual barrier to effective communication. Perceptual barriers often involve perceptual filters and nonverbal language.
Oftentimes, emotional barriers can significantly affect a person’s ability to communicate with their teammates, making them hold back their emotions and preventing them from listening to others and accepting other people’s perspectives on certain issues. Anger, pride, and anxiety represent key emotional barriers.
With cultural barriers, effective communication can be complicated by the different culture-related behavior patterns. These mostly revolve around language and nonverbal language, cultural norms, beliefs, and values, but can also manifest as stereotypes.
Language barriers may become an obstacle to effective team communication not only when communicators use different languages but also when they speak the same language, due to the use of different expressions. Language barriers cover problems with accents and dialects, jargon and slang, as well as literacy and linguistic ability.
When gender barriers occur, effective communication can be affected by the way different genders communicate, as well as the communicators’ individual expectations. These are often
manifested in stereotypes and gender-based biases, stemming from generally accepted assumptions about how men and women communicate.
Interpersonal barriers to communication are the most likely to prevent the communicators from reaching their full potential in terms of communication skills. Often coming from a lack of open-mindedness and participation, interpersonal communication barriers can manifest as a person’s inability for active listening or the incapacity to maintain the attention of the ones they’re communicating with.
Strategies for dealing with communication barriers
Present-day businesses are well aware of how important effective communication and collaboration are, especially in times of the pandemic and the expansion of remote work. With this in mind, company leaders and workers should all be focused on mastering the necessary strategies to overcome the most common workplace communication barriers and to ensure stress-free interaction among teams and team members.
In most companies and life as well, you will probably have to collaborate with people with different personalities, backgrounds, beliefs, and values, which is why learning how to deal with communication obstacles can benefit not only individuals but groups of people as well. Here are some of the most effective strategies that can be extremely helpful in coping with common communication barriers.
Maintaining eye contact
Most active listeners are great at maintaining eye contact, mostly because they know that effective communication is based on attentiveness and respectfulness. If you look your interlocutor in the eye, you’re showing them you’re an active participant in the conversation and are hearing what they’ve got to say, rather than just listening. This can drastically reduce the chances of communication breakdown.
Being aware of body language
Communication largely depends on one’s body language, non-verbal signals, and facial expressions. Being mindful of your body language and adjusting it to particular situations can indeed help minimize miscommunication issues. Body language can send a powerful message, especially during one-on-one conversations and group meetings.
Using simple language and the appropriate tone of voice
Your tone of voice and the language you use can significantly impact the way others interpret the message you’re trying to convey. You should always try to adapt yourself to the situation
and the topic of the discussion, making sure everyone is able to understand what you’re trying to say. Also, be mindful of the complexity of the language you use, as overly complicated and long words, as well as ambiguities and jargon, can create unnecessary barriers between you and the ones you’re communicating with.
Minding grammar and spelling
Just like with jargon and complex language, grammar and spelling mistakes can also lead to a breakdown in communication among people. Making sure your grammar is impeccable and everything is spelled out correctly will help avoid any misunderstandings, especially when you’re speaking with people who don’t have the same mother tongue as you.
Using encouraging comments and words
To show your interlocutor that you’re actively listening, you can use some affirmative comments and phrases to express your interest and encourage them to go on with what they’re saying. Ensuring everyone feels comfortable to express their opinions is key to effective communication, and this can be achieved with nodding and adequate facial expressions, as well as joining in on the conversation when appropriate.
Preventing information overload
Prioritizing your activities can help with avoiding information overload and putting a strain on communication. When overwhelmed, people can easily lose track of what and when to do, which can ultimately lead to numerous communication issues. Optimizing the number of details you share and actively listening to your interlocutor will ensure easier communication and prevent possible misinterpretations.
Interrupting people when they’re speaking reveals a lack of respect for the speaker, which is particularly problematic in group meetings. Refraining from interrupting others and waiting your turn can indeed do wonders, especially if you don’t like to be interrupted yourself. Communication is a two-way street, so every side has to make an effort to ensure the appropriate exchange of information.
Acknowledging other people’s feelings
Communicating with others successfully is mostly focused on the exchange of ideas and information, however, emotions also play an essential role here. No matter how many people you are talking to, always observe how they act and behave, as finding a mutual understanding can sometimes assume compromise. An effective communicator is capable of being considerate about everyone’s emotions while making sure to employ the 7 C’s of communication to overcome communication barriers.
Requesting and providing feedback
Overcoming communication barriers can rarely be possible without constructive feedback. No matter if you’re offering feedback or providing it, try to keep things positive. Negative criticism delivered with an inadequate tone of voice can hurt someone’s feelings, leading further to communication breakdown, and putting a strain on the communicators’ relationship.
Establishing effective communication isn’t always easy, especially when so many factors have to be taken into consideration. In addition, successful communication always depends on all sides involved, which means that everyone has to do their best to get the message across. Ensuring effective interaction among people isn’t always possible and achievable, however, striving for the best possible outcome should be everyone’s top priority. By implementing adequate strategies for overcoming common obstacles to communication, you can help nurture comfortable, flexible, and trustworthy relationships.
Author bio: Marija Kojic is a researcher and writer specialized in team communication and collaboration. She enjoys helping people discover meaningful and effective ways to communicate and collaborate smarter.