VUSSC/Content/Tourism/Applying Effective Communication Skills/Barriers to effective communication
1.6 Barriers that may hinder effective communication
You must apply your skills as an effective communicator and be aware of the factors that hinder communication so that you can prevent them.
Communication may fail for various reasons. Remember previously, you were introduced to the concept of ‘noise’ in the communication process. When we refer to ‘noise’ we include all the barriers that hinder effective communication.
Now, let’s look at some of the major barriers to effective communication which has been categorised into four (4) main groups:
Physical barriers There can often be physical obstructions that block the message on its way from the sender to the receiver. These barriers may include:
- physical objects;
- interfering background noises such as from machinery at a nearby construction site;
- disruptions or even distractions for example from a child demanding your attention during your presentation;
- the distance between the receiver and the sender of the message. The message gets more distorted the greater the distance between the sender and receiver;
- health problems such as if you are feeling unwell or are experiencing pain. This may also prevent you from delivering your message effectively.
- Malfunctioning equipment such as microphones.
- Secondary sources of information. For example if we obtain information relayed from a third party it may be distorted and inaccurate.
Mental and emotional barriers Your mental or emotional state as well as those of your visitors may also affect the way in which a message is conveyed or interpreted. Consider the following examples:
- Emotional stress, anger, depression or sadness during the communication process. Such negative emotions may influence how you send the message and in turn may block the message in the mind of the receiver. This results in a message that is not clearly understood.
- Too much or too little information or information that is inaccurate. If you fail to prepare and do the necessary research you may lack confidence and questions may exceed your personal knowledge. These too are barriers to effective communication.
- A distorted and subjective focus in your commentary. For example expressing your personal political, ethnic or religious views.
- Insecurity or a lack of confidence may also be a major barrier to effective communication.
- Difficult personalities you may encounter. Some tourists may be aggressive and may have exaggerated demands while others may be passive. Such situations may create barriers to effective communication.
Cultural differences As a tour guide, you interact with people from different cultures and social sub-groups. It is important to be aware of your clients’ customs, values and beliefs otherwise these may compromise the success of your communication with them.
- Personal biases and social prejudices based on political, ethnic and religious beliefs and perceptions. We should guard against making generalisations and stereotyping others based on these in our communication. Do not assume that the tourists share your values, beliefs and goals. Their understanding may be different from yours because their perspectives are likely to be different.
Language barriers As a tour guide, it is your responsibility to accommodate language differences and find a common ground within which the group can operate.
- Certain words may have multiple meanings given specific contexts. People may interpret the same word differently.
- Most tourists who visit your country will speak a different first language from your own. You may be faced with speech variations such as varying accents and different ways of pronouncing words which may complicate understanding.
- Using incorrect terminology or conveying inaccurate information is also a major barrier to successful communication.