Your relationships at work or home might suffer from poor communication. Many things can get in the way from meaningful exchanges – from getting your point across – but those communication barriers can be eliminated using these strategies.
Investing time to improve communication will accelerate your career. Overcoming those obstacles will make your day-to-day work with managers and employees more productive. Learning to talk often and openly will improve your relationships with friends, children, spouses or partners.
I understand (now) that most of the contention I’ve had in any of my work relationships resulted from misunderstanding my supervisors or coworkers. Those misunderstandings came from making assumptions about what they wanted; from not communicating better about each other’s expectations.
My marriage is good when our conversations with each other are frequent and honest. But it’s easy to let busy schedules, conflicting priorities, and too many commitments interfere with regular communication. Regularly talking with each other preempts many problems, but we should talk more than we do.
This article lists what some of the most common barriers to communication are, and offers proven strategies you can use to start experiencing better relationships at work and at home. This information is derived from the free guide and video series, Talk More Confidently, so signup to get those free resources and learn more.
Barrier #1: No Communication
When people don’t communicate with each other, they make assumptions about what each other is thinking. When there’s no communication, there’s no hope of understanding each other. Too often, they become suspicious of each other’s motives.
A lack of any communication might come from being too busy. Being inaccessible to each other means people can’t However, in most cases no communication is due to unwillingness more than inability; people won’t communicate.
How to Start Communicating
Sacrifice time in your schedule to talk to the people you need to communicate with. Ignore your own fears or suspicions about the other person. You can begin to open the channel with a text or email message. But realize those channels can often be misunderstood: you don’t pick up on others’ body language, inflections, emotions, etc. like you would with a phone call or a face-to-face conversation.
Remember that imperfect communication is much better than no communication. That should give you the resolve to start talking. Once you’ve started talking, keep Realize you’ve got to get through initial misunderstandings and move the conversation forward.
Barrier #2: Distrust
When there’s no underlying belief in the truth of what someone else says, or when there’s no confidence in their integrity, then people usually don’t even try to communicate with each other. When there’s no trust and no effort to communicate, there’s no hope of ever establishing trust and people assume the worst about each other’s intentions.
How to Overcome Distrust and Begin Communicating
Be trustworthy yourself. Understand the characteristics of being trustworthy and work to strengthen those in your own character. Then, in order to build trust, you will have to resign yourself to some element of risk.
A good way to start talking with the other person whom you may not trust, or who doesn’t trust you, is to communicate some of your own vulnerability. Admit to him or her that you don’t understand where they’re coming from and that you haven’t taken the time to hear them out. Exercising the courage to make this concession may offer the best chance of opening up a channel for dialogue.
Barrier #3: Preoccupation with Own Needs
If you’re too preoccupied with only what you want, then there’s probably no real meaningful exchange of information with someone you need to communicate with. Likewise, if they can’t see past what they want or need, then it’s unlikely they’ll hear anything you say.
Selfishness and impatience invite that preoccupation with our own needs and get in the way of being able to listen effectively to anyone else.
Delay Gratification to Improve Communication
The ability to delay gratification is a characteristic of maturity. For your part, set aside your concerns about what you want or need from someone else. Hear them out.
As Stephen Covey suggested, seek first to understand them, then you have a better chance of being understood yourself. Listening to what concerns someone else before you attempt to express your own may (no guarantee) get them to reciprocate. Take the high road; exercise maturity and pay attention to others’ concerns first. You’ll remove a common barrier to effective communication.
Barrier #4: Two Types of Noise
Noise prevents communication. Two types of noise that prevent sending or receiving messages are environmental noise and psychological noise.
- Environmental noise includes other people’s conversations, interruptions, traffic, the TV, electronic devices and such.
- Psychological noise includes worries and concerns, trivial or not, that prevent someone from paying full attention to what you say. Lack of trust or prejudice are forms of psychological noise which create barriers to communication
Ensuring Your Message is Heard Above the Noise
You can overcome the obstacle of environmental noise easily enough. Go someplace that’s quiet. Turn off both phones and the TV. When you need to have an important conversation with someone, go someplace where others won’t know to find you.
Psychological noise presents a more difficult barrier. Start diminishing this type of interference by seeing things from others’ points of view. Shift your attention from your own problems and concerns to be more attentive to what other people say to you.
To help people you need to talk with to overcome their own psychological noise, give them a few minutes to talk about how they’re doing. If they seem preoccupied with something else, let them talk about that for a while.
Before you present what you have to say, be sure to communicate it in context of what their other pressing concerns are. For example, you might say, “I know that project you’re working on is so important to you and it’s got to be done in just a few days. Could you find about 5 minutes to review the draft of my report with all the other things you have going on?”
Barrier #5: Limits of Technology
With so many devices available to communicate with each other, it’s important to understand that technology can actually be a barrier to effective communication. Text and email messages can’t convey the feelings of what people communicate to each other.
In addition, these channels also tend to give people something to hide behind when they need to say something difficult. The messages we send through text and email often come across as insensitive. Misinterpretation of the message we convey through technology often cause a lot of problems.
How to Remove the Barrier of Technology
Talk with people face-to-face as much as possible. A phone call provides another better-than-email alternative. Don’t initiate important conversations over text messages or email. People need to hear and/or see you to best ensure they understand what you’re trying to say, since so much of a message can be nonverbal.
If you have to communicate with someone online, try to prioritize voice or video calls over typed messages.
Barrier #6: No Incentive to Listen
Another significant barrier to communication is when one or both of you don’t see any benefit in listening to the other person. Previous experiences may lead you to believe nothing you say will make any difference in how they think or what they do, so you may not even try. As with psychological noise, prejudices may also cloud any incentive people have to listen to you.
How to Create Incentive to Listen
If people refuse to listen based on experiences they’ve had with you in the past, the only real recourse you may have to overcome that is to start with an apology. You don’t have to tell the other person you were wrong, especially if you feel strongly about your position. But an appropriate apology may include that you didn’t take time to hear them out, that you need to understand and appreciate what they think before you insist on your own ideas.
In other cases, there may not be any bad feelings; people may simply not understand the value of what you say. So, talk in terms of their interests, wants, and needs. As Simon Sinek suggests, address the why before you start talking about what and how. People are less likely to ignore what you say if the value to them is communicated quickly, right off.
You Can Talk Confidently, Once Communication Barriers Are Removed
The core principle underlying any strategy to overcome these barriers is to offer other people the same respect and attentiveness you want them to extend to you. Using these strategies will help open up channels to communicate. People will listen better to you. Your work will go better and your relationships will be more enjoyable.
As you overcome those barriers, be sure to use the tools included in the free guide: How to Feel Confident When you Talk to People.