An activity as complex as communication is bound to suffer from setbacks if conditions contrary to the smooth functioning of the process emerge.
They are referred to as barriers because they create impediments in the progress of the interaction. Identification of these barriers is extremely important.
According to the role observed by the two participants, let us categorize the barriers as:
- Sender oriented,
- Receiver oriented
Sender oriented Barriers
Sender-oriented barriers could be voluntary or involuntary. At any cost, efforts should be made on the part of the sender to identify and remove them.
As the sender is the originator of communication, he should be extremely careful not to erect barriers.
If his interaction gives rise to or indicates that there are barriers, the communication comes to a grinding halt.
Some of the barriers that are sender-oriented are as follows:
1. Badly Expressed Message
Not being well versed in the topic under discussion can create problems of this nature. The sender may not be able to structure his ideas accurately and efficiently. What he wishes to say and what he finally imparts may not be the same.
The discrepancy emerges as soon as the words are uttered. In fact, one of the important criteria at the time of initializing a piece of communication is that ideas should be concrete and the message should be well structured.
The receiver should not feel that the interaction is a waste of time. The moment this feeling crops up, the listener totally switches off and thus ceases the process of effective communication.
2. Loss in Transmission
This is a very minor issue but one that gains in magnitude when it leads to inability in transmitting the actual message.
Once again, if the choice of the channel or medium is not right, the impact of the message is lost. This is mostly a physical noise.
However, the responsibility lies with the sender, as he should ensure that all channels are free of noise before commencing communication.
3. Semantic Problem
High and big sounding words definitely look and sound impressive. But if the receiver is not able to comprehend the impact of these words, or if they sound ‘Greek’ or ‘Latin’ to him, the entire exercise proves futile.
This problem could arise in the interpretation of the words or overall meaning of the message it is also related to the understanding of the intention behind a particular statement.
For the receiver, e.g., the sanctity associated with the word “white” might be violated when the receiver uses it in a careless fashion.
The idiosyncrasies of the receiver should be well understood by the sender if he does not wish these barriers to crop up at the time of communication.
The look on the face of the listener should be sufficient to warn the sender that he has overstepped his limits or he has been misunderstood.
4. Over/Under Communication
The quantum of communication should be just right. Neither should there be excess information nor should it be too scanty.
Excess information may confuse the receiver as he has to figure out the exact import of the message, and scanty information would make him grope for the actual intent of the message.
The sender should, as far as possible try to get the profile of the receiver so that at the time of communication he knows how much material is needed and how much can be done away with.
Suppose he starts with some information that the receiver already possesses, the latter might lose interests it is merely repetition of what he already knows.
So by the time he arrives at the core of the matter, he had already lost the attention of the receiver.
5. ‘I’ -Attitude
Imagine a piece of communication that begins and ends with the pronoun “I”. How tedious it is going to be for the listener to sit through the entire piece of interaction.
If the sender starts every sentence with “I”, it gradually leads to what is referred to as the I-syndrome.He would not be receptive to changes, if suggested by the receiver; as such, changes would go against his personal formulation of certain views.
Starting any piece of communication with a bias or know-it- all attitude can prove to be quite detrimental to the growth of communication process.
Though it is easier said than done, still, when communication commences, all sorts of prejudices should be done away with, and the mind should be free of bias.
This would enable the sender to formulate his message, Mind, free of keeping only the receiver and his needs in mind.
Thoughts like “Last time he said this… ” Or “Last time he did this…” or “He belongs to this group…” can totally warp the formulation of the message. This barrier can also be extended to the receiver.
If the respondent starts with prejudices in mind, he too would be unable to listen to the intent of the message. His understanding of the message is going to be warped.
The messages are going to be understood in relation to the prejudices that a receiver harbors against the sender.
Receiver Oriented Barriers
Receiver can also have some barriers in the course of the interaction. Although his role in the initial phase is passive, he becomes active when he starts assimilating and absorbing the information.
He is equally to blame if the situation goes awry and communication comes to a stop, or there is miscommunication.
Some of the barriers emanating from the side of the receiver are as follows:
1. Poor Retention
Retention is extremely important during interaction. If the receiver has poor retention capability, he would probably get lost in the course of the proceedings.
There would be no connection between what was said initially and what is being said now.
He might counter statements instead of seeking clarifications that might lead to clamping on the part of the sender.
If the decoder feels that his retention capacities are not good, a judicious strategy for him would be to jot down points. It does not portray him in a poor light.
On the contrary, it shows how conscientious he is to get the message right.
2. Inattentive Listening
The mind has its own way of functioning. It is very difficult to exercise control over one’s mind. Listening is more of an exercise in controlling the mind and exercising it to assimilate messages.
The errors in listening arise primarily because the receiver is either not interested in what is being said, or has other things to concentrate on. The art of listening is an exercise in concentration.
3. Tendency to Evaluate
Being judgmental and evaluative are both the starting points for miscommunication. Remember, one mind cannot perform two activities at the same time. If it is evaluating, listening cannot take place.
Evaluation should always be a sequel to the listening process. It cannot be done simultaneously with listening.
The minute sender opens his mouth, if the listener starts mentally pronouncing judgments concerning his style or content, he has actually missed out on a major part of what has been said.
His responses naturally are then going to be incorrect or expose his misunderstanding.
4. Interests and Attitudes
“I am not interested in what you are saying” or “My interest lies in other areas”. Starting any piece of communication with this kind of indifference can thwart any attempts at communication.
Fixed notions of this kind should be dispensed with. It is not possible to be interested in all that is being said. But to start any communication with this notion is hazardous.
5. Conflicting Information
Dichotomy in the information that the receiver possesses and that which is being transmitted can create confusion and result in miscommunication.
Conflict between the existing information and fresh one results in elimination of the latter unless and until the receiver is cautious and verifies with the sender the reliability and validity of the message.
The sender should convince the receiver that whatever is now being said is correct and relevant to further proceedings.
6. Differing Status and Position
Position in the organizational hierarchy is no criterion to determine the strength of ideas and issues.
Rejecting the proposal of a subordinate or harboring a misconception that a junior cannot come up with a “eureka” concept is not right. In fact, many companies have started encouraging youngsters to come up with ideas/ solutions to a particular problem.
These ideas are then discussed among the senior managers and their validity is ascertained keeping the workings and the constraints of the company in mind.
The basic purpose of this upward traversing of ideas is that fresh and innovative minds can come up with unique solutions.
If an individual has been working in a particular company for some years, it is natural that his mind gets conditioned in a particular manner.
Challenging newcomers to innovate, as a part of company policy takes care of ego problems that may arise if this is not an accepted norm.
7. Resistance to Change
Fixed ideas, coupled with an unwillingness to change or discuss, hampers listening and results in miscommunication.
Novae concepts that require discussion before they can really materialize, if rebuked, fall flat.
The onus lies directly on the receiver who is unperceptive and unwilling to change. People with dogmatic opinions and views prove to be very poor communicators and erect maximum number of barriers.
8. Refutations and Arguments
Refutations and arguments are negative in nature.
Trying to communicate with the sender on the premise that refutations and arguments can yield fruitful results would prove to be futile.
Communication is a process in which the sender and the healthy receiver are at the same level.
The minute refutations or discussions arguments begin; there is a shift in balance between the two participants, after which the receiver moves to a conceived higher position and the sender remains at the same level.
In case there are some contradictions that need to be resolved, discussion is the right way to approach.
Listening to the views of the other, trying to understand or at least showing that there has been understanding, appreciating and, finally, positing own views should be the sequence to be followed.
The strategy adopted should not make the sender feel small or slighted.