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Barriers to communication

Some barriers are due to technical breakdowns, while others are due to the personality and
perception of the people communicating.

Barriers to communication can therefore be broadly classified as follows:-

A. Physical Barriers

Physical barriers are those which are mostly beyond the control of the persons involved
in the communication process. Some can be controlled, but at times the defect lies in the

i. Noise

Noise is the major cause of disruption in communication. When two people are
communicating on the shop for a factory, the noise from the machinery and
assembly line may result in the recipient met hearing what is said. Similar
disruption due to noise can occur due to traffic on the roads.

ii. Defects in the hearing of the person

If the communicating persons, is hard of hearing, he or she may hear something

different from the original message spoken.

iii. Information overload

In the recipient is bombarded with too much information, the vital message may
be lost in all the clutter. For example when too much work is done on a computer
it results in the machine getting hanged. Similarly if all modes are simultaneously
used to communicate or if lengthy unnecessary matter is supplied, the receiver
may tend to overlook what the message is all about and concentrate on the
unimportant information.

A. Mechanical Barriers

Mechanical Barriers occur due to defects in the medium of communication. For example
if the telephone line is faulty, the message heard may be unclear. Also if there is a postal
strike, the letter will be delayed. Sometimes the internet and email accounts stop working
for sometime or suddenly stop when only half the communication has been completed.
These barriers cannot be foreseen and so are not written easy control. However at times,
the person may switch mediums, like from telephone to email, to complete the abrupt

B. Psychological Barriers

Psychological Barriers are the most common barriers that we all commit at some point of
time they are related to the sender or the receiver of the communication and so can be
controlled, if the person at fault understands the barrier and makes an effort to overcome
it. Some of the common psychological barriers are as follows:

i) Abstracting or selective perception

When information is passed on to us we selectively choose to read, listen and

remember whatever we want or whatever appeals to us. We tend to focus only on
a part of the message that is important to us and leave out the rest of the matter.
This is known as abstracting or selective perception.

ii) Slanting

The perception and attitude we have about the sender of the message or about the
message itself makes us in favour of or against the message. This is not correct
because the message should be viewed objectively, in the manner it was intended
to be. But our bias does not allow us to understand the correct meaning of the

iii) Closed mind

A person may be narrow - minded and not in favour of new ideas and suggestions
such a person has closed or made up his mind even before evaluating all the
alternatives. Younger employees may feel frustrated that even good suggestions
are not heard by the superior with a closed mind. The superior may then end up
taking a decision of inadequate and incomplete information.

iv) Resistance to change

Some people are opposed to change in any form even if it is going to benefit
them. They want to maintain the status quo and the old way of doing things. They
would rather fall back on customs, norms and traditions rather than adapt to the
current situation.

v) Defensiveness
If the intended message contains something that makes us feel threatened or
challenges our decisions, we tend to immediately go on the defensive mode and
try to reject defensive mode and try to reject the message and justify our stand
even if we may have had a mistake.

vi) Self-image

Each and every person has some image about himself has some image about
himself or herself. Self- image is the image that we truly believe, is our image. So
we tend to accept messages or feedback that is in tune with our self-image and
personality. We request anything that we feel will hamper out self image.

vii) Filtering

Filtering means leaving out vital information, to make the message appear
different, when passing it on. Filtering may be done on purpose, when we want to
protect ourselves, when we want to with old information from a competing co-
worker or when we do not want the boss to know the full impact of some
unfavourable news. Sometimes filtering may even be done unknowingly when we
omit some information according to our understanding of the original message
and add our own interpretation to it.

viii) Allness

Allness occurs when an individual thinks he knows everything and there is no

way he can be wrong. He does not even think it is necessary to consult someone
else for a second opinion or for a better suggestion.

ix) Snap Reactions

This barrier takes place when the recipient does not bother to hear the complete
message or to read everything what is written. He takes a decision, gives a
reaction or makes a comment on the basis of incomplete information. This acts as
a barrier and he may have to repent later for his snap reaction.

x) Halo Effect

Halo effect occurs when one person has a very good image or perception about
the other person. He feels that the person can do no wrong, he accepts whatever
the person says as correct and valid and considers the person as a role model.
xi) Unjust or faulty assumptions

This is just the opposite of halo effect. We tend to have a negative bias against
someone and we do not want to hear anything said by that person or we tend to
think that everything said by him will be untrue and false.

xii) Polarization

Polarization occurs when we consider the message either entirely positive or

entirely negative. Even people are viewer as either good or bad. No middle the
road approach is adopted.

A. Language Barriers

Language barriers may arise when the recipient is not well-versed with the nuances of the
language or when the sender makes errors in grammar, punctuation or pronunciation.
Some of the languages barriers are as follows:

i. Vocabulary

The vocabulary used should be understood by the sender and the recipient. The
sender should use the level of language that is understood by all.

ii. Jargon

Jargon is the use of certain technical terms. For e.g. certain medical terms may be
common with doctors and medical practitioners but not with other professionals or
common people. Thus while framing a message the sender should keep in mind who
the audience is likely to be

iii. Ambiguity

Similar words may mean different things depending on the context. Some of these
words may have same spelling but different meaning or same pronunciation and
different meaning. Thus it is necessary to make the communication as clear as
possible to avoid any ambiguity with regard to the meaning and interpretation of
words or sentences.

A. Organizational Barriers

Communication is of vital importance to the functioning of business or carrying out tasks

in an organizational scenario. But in such a high – pressured environment, barriers to
communication, which leads to improper or ineffective communication, are almost
inevitable. However, a successful organization is one that trains its employees to improve
their communication skills and develops certain systems and procedures where
communication through a fixed format is followed. Some of the organizational barriers to
communication are as follows.

i. Ineffective downward communication

Downward communication is when the superior or stop management have to

communicate with the subordinates or all employees of the organization. It also takes
place when the head office communicates decisions to the branch offices or dealers etc.
During such communication the chain may be long till the last employee gets the
message. Along the way the message may get distorted due to human error. At times,
some managers may withhold some information thinking that it is not required to be told
to the lower staff. If the lower staff who execute the work, do not have the information in
its entirety they may not be able to complete the task in the right manner.

ii. Too much of written communication

In an official scenario, written communication is relied upon, so that everyone follows a

particular format or order and the message can be passed around. Also written
communication provides a proof for what has been communicated. However, there may
be an information overload. Too many circulars, notices and data sheets may lead to
clutter and an accumulation of files. In such a scenario, the important message may be

iii. Organization structure and size

If the organization is very large in size and it follows a tall hierarchy with many different
departments, communication may be distorted along the way or the speed of
communication may be greatly reduced. Even if there are offices of the organization
across cities and countries or sales offices in remote areas, communicating effectively
becomes a problem. Many other considerations such as language nuances and time
differences also have to be taken into account.

F. Cross – Cultural Barriers

Culture is a shared set of values and attributes of a group. It is the sum total of the way people
live and work and culture is passed from one generation to another. Every culture and people of a
country take pride in their customs and traditions and it is considered good manners if we as
guests adhere to the norms and rules followed in these specific countries. This will help to foster
business and personal ties. Some of the communication may arise are as follows:-