Barriers and Gateways to Effective Communication
Barriers and Gateways to Effective Communication
Barriers of Communication
The success of an act of communication depends upon many factors like the choice of the appropriate message, understanding of the audience, preparedness of the sender and the receiver, selection of the right channel and code. But absence of barriers is the most important requirement for the success of all modes of communication. The barriers to communication include:
• Wrong choice of medium
• Selective Perception
• Physical barriers
• Time and Distance
• Semantic barriers
• Difference in the Comprehension of Reality
• Socio-psychological barriers
• Difference of knowledge level
• Lack of Common Language
Wrong choice of Medium
Whatever message we may want to convey, it has to be transmitted through an appropriate medium. If someone wants to send a message instantly to a distant friend, s/he cannot use the ‘word of the mouth’ in the face to face mode to do that. It has to be either telephonic, computer-mediated e-mail or tele-fax. Similarly a manger cannot use a letter to give a report of the Annual Sales Proceeds of his/her company; a specially designed report has to submitted for this purpose. A telephonic information regarding a promotion is less important than conveying the message face to face. While dealing with a problematic employee, for example, one may resort to issuing memos but this should be the last resort as the memos pile up documentary evidence against the person and embitter his relationship with the sender. On the other hand, such disputes can be easily sorted out through the word of the mouth or through non-verbal means, may be smile and a pat.
Different people have different perceptions of different things. When the receiver has a different perception from that of a sender regarding the idea or information being transmitted, then communication is bound to be adversely affected. Usually a receiver filters a message in accordance with his experience, interests, needs, motivations, background and other socio-psychological characteristics and has the potential to twist a message in his/her own favour. Differences in perspectives or perceptions leads to miscommunication as it results in the loss of symbols, distortion of the symbols and the creation of new symbols (Das, 2009, p.112).
Often it so happens that the receiver finds the message threatening and thus unacceptable, and shows reluctance to receive the message. While filtering the message, the receiver therefore maintains a defensive stand and affects communication negatively.
Noise is the most notorious physical barrier which often disrupts communication. This is usually the case in places where noise from the machines or electronic gadgets hinders proper transmission of the message. Under noise we can also include all kinds of physical interferences like illegible handwriting, poor and inaudible telephonic conversation or recordings, smudged copies of duplicated typescripts, low level of light on the projector screens. In pubic speaking, the technical problem with the microphone often spoils the show.
Time and Distance
The time when a statement is made or information is conveyed can also make a difference. Often it is seen that some officers prefer to talk to the outsiders in the morning. There might be also communication gap among people working on different shifts. A person working on the day shift may not be able to understand the problem of a person on the night shift. The sitting arrangement in the places of meetings may also cause problems in getting the message across. A person sitting near the window may not be able to get a message clearly because of the external distractions. On the other hand a person sitting in the first row or the first few rows may get the right message.
Sometimes there is breach of communication due to the different meanings that the sender and the receiver assign to a particular word or expression. In every language, different words have a lot of denotative as well as connotative meanings and when the sender and receiver of a message attach two different meanings to a word, there is communication gap. This may happen due to the differences in the social, economic and cultural backgrounds of the participants. In order to avoid such barriers the speaker or the writer should use words which have clear meanings, are familiar to the sender and the receiver and words that have positive connotations.
Difference in Comprehensive of Reality
All human beings do not perceive the reality in the same manner. Some simply believe in themselves and do not accept anything that goes against their beliefs; some may try to understand reality when it is supported by documentary evidence; some draw inferences and some others get affected by others’ opinions. In stead of being objective, we often go by subjective interpretations of reality. When our subjective interpretations dominate over the objective facts, communication is the worst victim.
Socio-psychological barriers include the hindrances that arouse due to our attitudes, opinions, emotions, mind-set and other behavioural eccentricities. They can be enlisted as follows:
(i) Attitudes and Opinions: Our attitudes and opinions impact the way we respond to a person or a message transmitted by that person. If the person/message is favourable to us we respond positively but when it is not favourable to us, we react negatively and disrupt communication.
(ii) Emotions: A mind filled with emotions cannot be rational. Hence when we are either excited or agitated, we tend to block the transmission of a message and cause breach of communication.
(iii) Closed-mind: In order to receive and reciprocate a message, we need to have a open mind. A closed-mind is just like a closed door, obstructing the inflow of information.
(iv) Status-Consciousness: Being over-conscious of our higher or lower status, we do not express ourselves openly and thus block the proper transmission of a message.
(v) The source of communication: Our reaction to a message depends upon the source from which it has originated. We trust it if the source is reliable and do not trust it when it is not.
(vi) Inattentiveness: While listening to somebody, we often unconsciously remain inattentive when the idea being transmitted is new and our mind is not ready to accept it.
(vii) Faulty transmission: Sometimes a message is lost when it is not properly transmitted either due to a defective channel or due to the unpreparedness of the receiver.
(viii) Poor retention: Human memory has limited storage capacity and any message that is extraordinarily long or disjointed is likely to be lost. This is particularly the case with oral messages which are lost due to poor human retention.
(ix) Unsolicited Communication: Often it so happens that we receive a communication which we had never desired. In such cases, we either ignore such communications or respond to them in a lackadaisical manner
Difference in Knowledge Level
Communication gap may also occur when there is a gap in the knowledge levels of the sender and the receiver. If a speaker is speaking on Astrophysics to a group of students from humanities, s/he may not be able drive home the ideas. With no knowledge of astrophysics the students may struggle to make something out of the speech but majority of the message will go above their heads.
Difference in Language
When the frames of reference differ, it leads to communication gaps or miscommunication. This particularly happens when there is a difference of registers. A student of medicine will not understand what a professor of mechanical engineering speaks and the vice versa. Different words have different connotations in different cultures. The word ‘guru’ in the Indian culture is a spiritual guide who is supposed to guide people from darkness to light but now this word has gained currency in the western world as a synonym for an authority or expert.
Gateways to Communication
In order to enhance the effectiveness of communication, we can focus on the following aspects:
• Plan the message: Before we decide to communicate an idea/information/message, we need to plan it properly. The message should match the purpose and should be transmitted through the appropriate format.
• Use Proper language: The language used for a message should be clear, lucid and appropriate. The density of words used should match with the level of maturity of the receivers.
• Don’t be evaluative: If we listen to somebody with preconceived notions, we wont be able to receive, process and interpret the message properly.
• Give proper Orientation: All the employees should be given proper orientation regarding the objectives, policies, procedures, organization structure and work culture of an organization immediately after they are recruited. This helps in interpersonal communication as well as communication with the people at the higher and lower hierarchies.
• Be an active listener: Active listening is an art which very few people can master. Many of us confuse listening with hearing. But listening demands more attention and interest than hearing, hence very important in communication.
• Have an unbiased attitude: Any person with a biased mind will not be able to communicate properly with others. Hence it is necessary to train people to be unbiased through education, counseling and discussions to help them become good communicators. .
• Respond don't re-act: When we are dealing with a problematic situation or person, we must understand the facts properly and respond appropriately. If we react in a situation like this, our emotions and feelings take an upper hand and we end up as bad communicators. Our negative reaction to people in stressful situations will aggravate the situation and lead to total collapse of communication. We must respond mindfully rather than re-act emotionally. Though it requires self-knowledge and discipline, it allows us to be more effective in our communication.
• Promote congruence: Communication will not be effective unless and until people are willing to communicate. This willingness to communicate needs to be inculcated among people to keep them intact.
• Use the grapevine: The grapevine can be used to predict the responses of the employees regarding a particular issue. This is mainly useful for checking plans which are likely to be implemented in future. On the basis of the responses collected form people, appropriate decisions can be taken.
• Transmit the message in Installments: If too much of information is sent within too short a period of time, it will not be digested by people. SO it is wise to send the information/message in chunks. This makes the transmission of the message more effective and facilitates feedback. Information overload results in miscommunication or a complete collapse of communication.
• Provide feedback: In order to enhance the effectiveness of communication, feedback mechanism should be built into all communication networks so that necessary amendments can be made to enhance the quality of communication in future. Suggestions, clarifications, performance reports, surveys and emphatic listening are some of the feedback mechanism we use to ensure the success of communication.
• Overcome bypassing: When we receive a message, we must respond it appropriately and immediately. Bypassing it will hamper the transmission of the message.
• Maintain semantic accuracy: While using words with different connotations we must make it clear in its meaning by providing contextual clues. Semantic accuracy will improve the effectiveness of communication and will facilitate timely feedback.
• Add some eloquence: While presenting the facts, we should be able to present them in a seamless manner so that there is eloquence and the listener does not have any problem in comprehending the logical link between the facts. This in turn will positively impact communication.
• Improve the ambience: Improper ambience often mars the communication between two participants. If people fight in a meeting where a saint is giving a sermon on world peace, there is no necessity of his sermon. Similarly, if we are speaking in a crowded place with noises flowing in from all corners, we wont be able to drive anything into the minds of the audience. On the other hand, a calm atmosphere will be appropriate for such an act of communication.
• Use proper etiquette: Social etiquettes play an important role in ensuring successful communication. A person may be a master of his/her subject, but his/her lack of etiquette may mar his/her chances of a promotion. Likewise, proper telephone etiquettes are also essential for making an act of communication successful.
• Watch your language: We should opt for clear, positive language and sincerity to encourage shared understanding and earn the support of our group.