Barriers to effective communication can retard or distort the message and intention of the message being conveyed which may result in failure of the communication process or an effect that is undesirable. These include filtering, selective perception, information overload, emotions, language, silence, communication apprehension, gender differences and political correctness.
Barriers to communication are the factors that contribute towards the total or partial loss failure of the communication. In simple terms they can be referred to as those features it act as bulwark to the desired outcome of any communication process. Some common barriers are identified in the paragraphs that follows.
Physiological barriers may result from individuals' personal discomfort, caused, for
example, by ill health, poor eye sight, or hearing difficulties. These may also affect one's personality in many different and mostly negative ways. It is imperative to enable one's thought process to accept the realities and yet stay positive to curb the negativity that affects one’s perception of one’s own self in relation to others. This can best be handled by working on developing a positive perception as certain physiological features contributing to barriers may not be curable.
Physical barriers include marked out territories, empires, and fiefdoms into which strangers are not allowed. Barriers can also manifest at micro level in the shape of closed office doors, barrier screens, separate areas for people of different status, and large working areas or working in one unit that is physically separate from others. Research shows that one of the most important factors in building cohesive teams is proximity. As long as people still have a personal space that they can call their own, nearness to others aids communication because it helps us get to know one another. Proximity in different cultures is different and therefore needs to be taken in the right context. It has been observed that people who come from rural backgrounds with more physical space available may not feel comfortable in closed quarters as they tend to have larger personal spaces as compared to people living in urban conditions. This aspect alone can become a significant psychological barrier if they subconsciously feel threatened" by inadvertent "invasion" of their personal space in case an urbanite approaches them in close proximity considering it as a normal personal space. There are numerous accounts of such barriers that in certain cases sprout out of cultural norms.
When we join a group and wish to remain in it, sooner or later we need to adopt the behavior pattern of the group. These are the behaviors that the group accepts as signs of belongings. The group rewards such behavior through acts of recognition, approval and inclusion. In group which are happy to accept you and where you are happy to conform, there is a mutuality of interest and a high level of win-win contract. Where however, there are barriers on your membership of a group, a high level of game played replaces good communication. It is interesting to note that we can adapt to different cultures once we come to accept it and appreciate that cultures are different so that we can be recognized from others and that no specific connotations need to be attached to one culture or the other.
Language that describes what we want to say in our terms may present barriers to others who are not familiar with our expressions, buzz-words, and jargon. When we couch our communication in such language, it is a way of excluding others. In a global setting, the greatest compliment we can pay another person is to talk in their language. Living language derive from other languages and successfully absorb and indigenize the borrowed words and phrases into its usage. A dialect for example would identify a person geographically and identically, certain slang would reveal the cultural or group orientation of the persons; speaking it. The same are then barriers, if spoken in situations and with people, who may not be able to relate to them.
"There are distinct differences between the speech patterns in a man and those in a woman. Global studies suggest that a woman speaks between 22,000 and 25,000 words a day whereas a man speaks between 7,000 and 10,000. In childhood, girls speak earlier than boys and at the age of three, have a vocabulary twice that of boys. The reason for this lies in the wiring of a man's and woman's brains. When a man talks, his speech is located in the left side of the brain but in no specific area. When a woman talks, the speech is located to both hemispheres and in two specific locations.
Scientifically, speaking, a man talks in a linear, logical, and compartmentalized way, which are the features of left brain thinking, whereas a woman talks more freely, mixing logic and emotion, features of both sides of the brain. It also explains why women talk for much longer than men each day. It also explains that why mothers can understand and relate better to kids (with apologies to fathers).
There are six levels at which people can relate to one another.
- Withdrawal is an absence of interpersonal contact. It is both refusals to be in touch and me alone.
- Rituals are meaningless, repetitive routines devoid of real contact
- Pastimes fill up time with others in social but superficial activities.
- Working activities are those tasks which follow the rules and procedures of contact but do not essentially mean communication.
- Games are subtle, manipulative interactions which are about winning and losing,
- Closeness is the aim of interpersonal contact where there is a high level of honesty and acceptance of yourself and others.