Effective Communication Barriers

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Effective Communication Barriers

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Barriers to Effective Communication

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At first glance, jargon seems like a good thing—a quicker way to send an effective communication, the way text message abbreviations can send common messages in a shorter, yet understandable way. Jargon can be an obstacle to effective communication, causing listeners to tune out or fostering ill-feeling between partners in a conversation. When jargon rules the day, the message can get obscured. But that same conversation should be held in standard English, free of jargon, when communicating with staff members outside the IT group. Here is a website containing eighty buzz words in business and a discussion of why slang is a problem.

Men and women work together every day. But their different styles of communication can sometimes work against them. Another difference that has been noticed is that men often speak in sports metaphors, while many women use their home as a starting place for analogies. Clearly, successful organizations of the future are going to have leaders and team members who understand, respect and apply the rules of gender culture appropriately. Being aware of these gender differences can be the first step in learning to work with them, as opposed to around them. For example, keep in mind that men tend to focus more on competition, data, and orders in their communications, while women tend to focus more on cooperation, intuition, and requests.

Both styles can be effective in the right situations, but understanding the differences is a first step in avoiding misunderstandings based on them. Differences in meaning often exist between the sender and receiver. But in business, what do those words mean? Different words mean different things to different people. Age, education, and cultural background are all factors that influence how a person interprets words. The less we consider our audience, the greater our chances of miscommunication will be.

When communication occurs in the cross-cultural context, extra caution is needed given that different words will be interpreted differently across cultures and different cultures have different norms regarding nonverbal communication. Eliminating jargon is one way of ensuring that our words will convey real-world concepts to others. Speaking to our audience, as opposed to about ourselves, is another.

Nonverbal messages can also have different meanings. Use this gesture with caution! While in North America it means things are going well, in France it means a person is thought to be worthless, in Japan it refers to money, and in Brazil, Russia, and Germany it means something really not appropriate for the workplace. Figure 3. This can lead to confusion. Figure 4. However, in Italy it means you are being tricked, while in Brazil and Venezuela it means you are warding off evil. Figure 5. Biased language can offend or stereotype others on the basis of their personal or group affiliation. The figure below provides a list of words that have the potential to be offensive in the left-hand column. The right-hand column provides more neutral words that you can use instead.

Effective communication is clear, factual, and goal-oriented. It is also respectful. Referring to a person by one adjective a brain , a diabetic , an invalid reduces that person to that one characteristic. Language that belittles or stereotypes a person poisons the communication process. Language that insults an individual or group based on age, ethnicity, sexual preference, or political beliefs violates public and private standards of decency, ranging from civil rights to corporate regulations. Critics of political correctness see its vocabulary as stilted and needlessly cautious. Many companies offer new employees written guides on standards of speech and conduct. These guides, augmented by common sense and courtesy, are solid starting points for effective, respectful workplace communication.

Tips for appropriate workplace speech include but are not limited to the following:. After all, a good manager needs to listen at least as much as he needs to talk. Listening takes practice, skill, and concentration. Poor listening is a factor in low employee morale and increased turnover because employees do not feel their managers listen to their needs, suggestions, or complaints. Alan Gulick, a Starbucks spokesperson, puts better listening to work in pursuit of better profits. To teach its employees to listen, Starbucks created a code that helps employees taking orders hear the size, flavor, and use of milk or decaf coffee. The person making the drink echoes the order aloud. How can you improve your listening skills? Clearly, rehearsing is an impediment to the communication process.

Over-complicated or unfamiliar terms. Emotional barriers and taboos. Lack of attention, interest, distractions, or irrelevance to the receiver. Differences in perception and viewpoint. Physical disabilities such as hearing problems or speech difficulties. Physical barriers to non-verbal communication. Language differences and the difficulty in understanding unfamiliar accents. Expectations and prejudices which may lead to false assumptions or stereotyping. People often hear what they expect to hear rather than what is actually said and jump to incorrect conclusions. Cultural differences. The norms of social interaction vary greatly in different cultures, as do the way in which emotions are expressed.

For example, the concept of personal space varies between cultures and between different social settings. A skilled communicator must be aware of these barriers and try to reduce their impact by continually checking understanding and by offering appropriate feedback. Barriers to Communication by Category Language Barriers Clearly, language and linguistic ability may act as a barrier to communication. However, even when communicating in the same language, the terminology used in a message may act as a barrier if it is not fully understood by the receiver s.

For example, a message that includes a lot of specialist jargon and abbreviations will not be understood by a receiver who is not familiar with the terminology used. As nurses, we are especially prone to making this mistake. We must remember to use language that can be understood by the receiver. Psychological Barriers The psychological state of the receiver will influence how the message is received. For example, if someone has personal worries and is stressed, they may be preoccupied by personal concerns and not as receptive to the message as if they were not stressed.

Stress management is an important personal skill that affects our interpersonal relationships. Anger is another example of a psychological barrier to communication. When we are angry it is easy to say things that we may later regret and also to misinterpret what others are saying. More generally, people with low self-esteem may be less assertive and therefore may not feel comfortable communicating - they may feel shy about saying how they really feel, or read negative sub-texts into messages they hear. For example, a receiver with reduced hearing may not grasp the entirety of a spoken conversation, especially if there is significant background noise.

Physical Barriers An example of a physical barrier to communication is geographic distance between the sender and receiver s. Communication is generally easier over shorter distances as more communication channels are available and less technology is required. Although modern technology often serves to reduce the impact of physical barriers, the advantages and disadvantages of each communication channel should be understood so that an appropriate channel can be used to overcome the physical barriers. Attitudinal Barriers Attitudinal barriers are behaviors or perceptions that prevent people from communicating effectively. Attitudinal barriers to communication may result from personality conflicts, poor management, resistance to change, or a lack of motivation.

Effective receivers of messages should attempt to overcome their own attitudinal barriers to facilitate effective communication. Overcoming Barriers Most of the above mentioned barriers can be overcome by the skilled communicator. Obviously, bridging gaps in geography and communicating through disabilities are a topic for a different discussion. Below, we will look at some tools that can be used to bridge barriers in everyday communications.

Active Listening Active listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed with practice. However, this skill can be difficult to master and will, therefore, take time and patience. Active listening involves listening with all senses. By providing this 'feedback' the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly. There are both verbal and non-verbal cues that convey active listening. Non-verbal signs include smiling if appropriate , making eye contact, nodding at appropriate times, and avoiding distractions.

Common sources of noise are explained in this section. How many of these examples can you remember affecting your conversations with friends, classmates, or coworkers? Or the general level of background noise can be so intense that it is hard to focus for long on one particular voice. Outside activities may be a distraction to those with a view out windows. Finally, it may be lunchtime or too close to quitting time to keep people focused. Fortunately, with some awareness and advance planning, physical barriers to effective communication are some of the easiest to overcome.

Personal and particular experiences color how people view the world and how they communicate. A message sender sees the world through one set of filters experiences and values and the receiver sees it through a different set of filters. Each message has to pass, therefore, through at least two sets of filters. The more similar people are in lifestyle, experience, culture, and language, the more similar their mental filters are likely to be and the less distortion should occur. This is why people who come from very different social and economic situations than their audience must work extra hard to say exactly what they mean to avoid confusion.

Also, the fewer people involved in the transmission of a message, the greater the chance that it will be received as the sender intended. In business, however, messages may be summarized by a manager and relayed through an administrative assistant who has clarified or edited the message. Messages exposed to many filters should be repeated in various ways to make sure they were understood as the sender intended.

For instance, some people live purposefully healthy lifestyles by frequently exercising and eating only nutritious food but still smoke cigarettes. Psychologists believe that they are selectively ignoring the evidence that smoking is dangerous to their health. They have chosen to disregard the information that would make them feel guilty or fearful about this habit. This is called perceptual defense. Selective perception can also be vigilant , meaning people are extra sensitive to things that are significant to them. On the other hand, a favorite employee coming late to work one morning might elicit concern that she had car trouble. Selective perception introduces bias into the communication process.

We have all been in situations when we felt that too much information was coming at us. When this happens, we feel overwhelmed and fear that we will not be able to retain any information at all. Sometimes it is not just the quantity of communication but the level that causes overload. If the message contains information that is new to the receiver, including processes or concepts that are not familiar, then the chances of overload increase greatly.

The sender should break up the message into more palatable or digestible bits and reduce the amount of information that has to be absorbed at any one time. One technique is to make a high-level announcement and then follow it up later with more details. The sender has the primary responsibility to check that the receiver has understood the message. This means that a manager may have to adjust a message to reflect the various experiences of the employees. A new employee may need repeated explanations before beginning an operation, whereas an experienced employee may start rolling his eyes at the same old instructions.

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