Interpersonal Barrier

Interpersonal Barriers to Effective Communication

CommunicationOpens in new window is an interpersonal process and is based on the relationships and common frame of understanding between the senderOpens in new window and the receiverOpens in new window.

When we have shared assumptions of ideas, views, values and opinions, it is easy to communicate.

However, when there are unshared perceptionsOpens in new window, ideas, views and opinions, it becomes unlikely to achieve effective communication.

Interpersonal barriers are the ones present outside an individual’s own self—in the external environment between the sender and receiver of the message, and are relatively outside the individual’s control.

They may either be related with the other person(s) one is communicating with (receiver-centric) or they may be due to the individual’s own shortcomings (sender-centric), or both.

These interpersonal communication barriers may surface due to various known or unknown external elements such as:

1.   Attitude of superiors

The attitude of superiors may affect effective communication in the organization. A superior who is hostile to subordinates’ views and not open to suggestion will end up not receiving information and ideas.

A good manager would practice open door policy, where subordinates find him approachable and can easily share their thoughts with him.

2.   Stereotyping

Rigid perceptual labeling or stereotyping Opens in new window hinders people from modifying or altering their preconceived opinions.

If a person’s mind is already made up before the communicative event, an attempt to achieve effective communication suffers woefully.

In addition, people with different backgrounds or knowledge may interpret a communication in different ways.

3.   Lack of credibility or reputation

Credibility is the level of trust, reliability, and sincerity that an individual brings to a situation.

Credibility, both of the content and the person (sender as well as receiver) is a prerequisite to any successful communication.

It is credibility that makes the message or the sender worthy of consideration. Likewise, the sender’s reputation, if high, makes the message more reliable, but if it is low, it makes the message dubious in the eyes of the receiver(s).

If the credibility of the sender or the message is questioned, the quality of the receiver’s understanding, acceptance and response tends to get reduced. For example, a physiotherapist’s advice on physical fitness is likely to be taken more seriously than the one given by a lawyer.

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4.   Wrong medium

Selecting the wrong channelOpens in new window or medium often result in communication breakdown. When a message is emotional, it is better to transmit it face-to-face rather than in writing.

It can be risky to discuss issues via e-mails because it lacks the capacity for rapid feedback and multiple cues. On the other hand, e-mail is highly efficient for routine messages.

5.   Semantic problem

Semantic is concerned with meaning of words and the way they are used.

Vague words or excessive use of technical terms or jargonsOpens in new window may cause communication barrier.

For instance, if the sender of the message is a qualified chartered accountant who communicates with a client (a simple primary school teacher) about the intricacies of filing income-tax returns in accountancy-specific jargon, the accountant is likely to confuse rather than help the receiver.

To avoid semantic barriersOpens in new window, senders should take care to select appropriate words that will accurately convey the intended sense.

6.   Inconsistent cues

Sending inconsistent cues between verbal and nonverbal communicationsOpens in new window will inescapably confuse the receiver.

Unintended nonverbal signals can confuse a receiver and influence the way an oral message is received. For example, if you smile when you sympathetically give bad news, your motives may be suspected.

For success in oral business communication, senders should show appropriate facial expressionOpens in new window to reflect their words. Failure to do this will result in noiseOpens in new window and blurred communication. Likewise, tone of voice and body languageOpens in new window should be consistent with the words, thus, avoiding contradiction between actions and words.