Barriers to Communication: Types, Effects and Characteristics

We explain what barriers to communication are, how they are classified and their effects. Also, its characteristics and examples.

What are Communication Barriers?

Communication barriers are understood to be the different obstacles or difficulties that may arise during the communication process . These obstacles that can get in the way, slow it down, or make it less effective in some way. These barriers have to do directly with the specific conditions of a communicative act, that is, they have to do with the specific elements that intervene.

The communication is the effective transmission of a message between a sender and a receiver sharing a code and use a particular channel. And in that sense, it presents minimum demands for internal and external coordination to be able to take place, with a minimum risk of distortion in the message.

We have all experienced communication and its eventual difficulties in one way or another, but a very clear example of this is the school game of the message (“the telegram”, “the telephone”, etc.) in which a wheel of players and at one end a message is introduced, which they must transmit to the other end without the opportunity to repeat it, from player to player, whispered into the ear. Upon reaching the end of the wheel, the message is compared with the original and distortions and communication barriers become evident.

Communication barriers concept

Communication barriers can be any type of difficulties, obstacles or challenges that arise in a given communicative act and that negatively affect the possibility of transmitting the message in a reliable way.

They may have to do with the members of the process (sender or receiver, for example, if one is deaf and the other speaks to him) or with the code (if they do not speak the same language ) or even with the context in which the act takes place. communicative (if two people try to talk between loud music).

Types of communication barriers

Types of communication barriers Semantic barriers have to do with language differences.

There are different types of communication barriers, such as:

  • Physical Circumstances that make communication difficult, such as environmental noises, physical obstacles ( glass , walls, curtains) that distort or impede understanding.
  • Semantics. They have to do with the code, that is, the language in which the meanings of words, gestures or other types of signs are inscribed (in non-verbal communication). It may have to do with dialect or language differences.
  • Physiological. Linked to the anatomical configuration of both the sender and the receiver or receivers, which can translate into medical conditions (deafness, muteness) or even transitory diseases or conditions (hoarseness, conjunctivitis, etc.).
  • Psychological. They reflect the mental or emotional condition of any of the actors, which could sabotage the transmission of the message. For example, states of catatonia in which an individual does not respond to communicative stimuli.
  • Administrative. All those barriers that have to do with the administration of communication, that is, with its management, and that concern the instances involved in a specific moment, such as the cultural and circumstantial context in which it occurs, the technological mechanisms used, etc.

Effects of communication barriers

Effects of communication barriers One possible effect may be distortion of the message.

Normally, the main effect of communication barriers is the complete lack of communication : the impossibility of reaching an understanding between the sender and the receiver.

However, it is not unusual for the effect to consist of the distortion of the message , which leads to misunderstandings, since what is emitted and what is received do not coincide, contradict each other or have nothing to do with each other.

Voluntary and involuntary barriers

Another possible classification of communication barriers points to whether they are voluntary (intentional) or not.

Volunteers are those planned by one of the actors to sabotage the communicative act, while involuntary ones are due to circumstances or accidents in communication.

Examples of communication barriers

Examples of communication barriers Very loud sounds can make conversation difficult.

Some examples of communication barriers are:

  • Physical Too many people talking at the same time in a room, making it difficult for their specific recipients to perceive each of their messages. If we add to this the noise of a television turned on at full volume, it will be even more difficult to transmit the message.
  • Semantics. Two people who do not speak the same language try to converse, or two people who speak very different dialects of the same language do, in which the same thing receives different names and they cannot agree on what they mean.
  • Physiological. A man yells at a deaf person that he has dropped his wallet. A blind man ignores the messages written on the wall.
  • Psychological.  A drunk or drugged person will have trouble following the thread of a conversation, as their psychological state is altered.
  • Administrative.  A person is required to answer but not given enough time to state it.

Strategies to avoid communication barriers

Communication barriers are not insurmountable. Some strategies to avoid them are:

  • Have linguistic awareness. Knowing how to express yourself in a way that the recipient understands easily, avoiding inappropriate expressions and promoting convenient ones.
  • Build the communicative moment. Avoid communicating running, without enough time to guarantee the correct reception of the message or in areas that make it difficult to receive the message.
  • Pay due attention. Communication is an active process that requires the attention of those involved.
  • Make sure the codes are common. Instead of assuming that everyone thinks and speaks as one does, it is convenient to assume the difference and verify before issuing the message that the receiver handles the same code and the same senses.
  • Control emotions . Often times, emotionality can rush things and make us say something other than what we want. It is convenient to deal with them in an efficient way so that they do not interfere with communication.

Distracting elements

Distracting elements Too many people in an environment can be a distracting element.

Distracting elements are those that hijack the attention of the actors in a communicative event , preventing it from occurring or causing it to occur poorly.

These can be other people talking, overabundance of messages , etc. They are considered, obviously, as a circumstantial form of communication barrier.

Phatic function of language

The so-called phatic function of language is useful in dealing with communication barriers. It occurs when we use expressions or sounds devoid of their own meaning , but that fulfill the role of verifying if the communication channel is open and if we can begin to emit or receive.

A clear example of this is the “Hello?” or “hello?” employee to answer the phone.

Communication feedback

Communication feedback Feedback requires clear signals of attention.

Another important concept in communication, which allows the cycle to continue and verify its operability , is feedback: the exchange, even if it is momentary, of the roles of sender and receiver, which confirms that the messages are being fully understood.

In many cases this requires clear signals of attention such as an assent , a keyword (“ok”, “I understand”, “clear” or the like), or other clear feedback marks.

Relevance of the content

The relevance of content is also a necessary concept to think about communication barriers.

It will be difficult for the receiver to fix his attention and keep the channel open for those messages that do not seem relevant, that is, necessary or pertinent within the flow of communication, which follows a logical order.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.

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