Barriers to Effective Business Communication

Certain psychological and physical barriers between people may distort the communication process and cause misunderstanding and confusion.

Hierarchical barriers
Communication between superiors and subordinates tend to be rather cautious. The superior wishing to maintain authority and the subordinate protecting himself from criticism. A formal and rigid line relationship may funnel the process of communication too narrowly, restricting the dissemination of information.

Educational/Social Background
Differences sometimes cause feelings of inferiority/superiority. Differences in educational standards could also hinder understanding of some information.

Age, Sex, Culture
Natural differences may affect outlook and perception.

Misunderstanding and incorrect interpretation may result from the use of inappropriate or ambiguous language. This is especially the case where technical and specialist language is used.

Background Knowledge
Lack of expertise or knowledge of a subject may impair understanding.

Tone, gestures, facial expressions and mannerisms may convey disapproval, disbelief, aggression etc.

Preconceived Judgment
Either party may already have made up his mind about the outcome or made judgments on the topic. He will therefore be unreceptive or only hear what he wants to hear.

Personality clashes
Guarding of one’s own area of work may affect objectivity and the degree of co-operation given.

Sometimes people view situations in a completely different light. This affects their understanding or acceptance of the matter at hand.

Poor Listening

Inattention results in lack of knowledge and misconceptions.

Lack of Time
Executives may always be ‘too busy’ to talk except by appointment. This leads to a feeling of remoteness and lack of involvement.
Physical Surroundings
Lack of privacy could inhibit free discussion. Visual/oral distractions or poorly arranged furniture could do the same.

Where offices are spread out, it is often impracticable to communicate verbally except by telephone. Closed doors also inhibit would-be communicators.

People may be afraid to speak their mind in case they expose a weakness.

Chain Distortion
As information passes along a communication chain it is affected by coding/decoding distortion.
People on the chain are constantly changing from the receiver’s role to the sender’s role and vice versa

In a vertical chain distortion occurs because of suspicion aroused by the differences in rank between those on the chain. Thus a new system introduced by management intended to improve productivity and possibly reduce workload may come out at the bottom looking like a reduction of privileges. By the time these feelings from the bottom are expressed to top management it could come out as “workers being unnecessarily stubborn” and produce the reaction. “They have no choice!” It is not difficult to see how quickly management and workforce can get out of step with each other this way.

Noise is any unwanted signal. Noise, in this context, is constituted by buzzes on the telephone line or public address system, physical noise from traffic, heavy machinery, manual typewriters or even other people talking. It could be distractions such as the fact that you have a headache, or received very bad news that morning or had a quarrel with a close friend. All types of noise reduce the efficiency with which we communicate.

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