Barriers to effective communication (and how to overcome them)
Posted on 24th October 2020 at 18:14
Being able to communicate effectively gives you the chance to put across your ideas, thoughts, or instructions to others as plainly as possible, so everyone understands you. But there can be barriers to effective communication that you may need to avoid or know how to overcome to help convey your message clearly, whether you’re speaking or writing.
Having the ability to communicate effectively is an important and essential skill for anyone to gain, whether you’re connecting at home with family and friends, or professionally with staff or colleagues – and improving your communications in the workplace is where it’s especially valuable.
But any barriers to effective communication can derail even the best-laid plans. And that can occur at any point, having a negative effect on projects, staff, or teams. All of which can mean your key message or instruction could be misunderstood, leading to confusion and potentially, wasted time or money.
Communicating successfully means you overcome any barriers to deliver a clear, concise, and consistent message that’s easily understood, every time. Depending on your situation, there can often be more than one communication barrier, but below we cover some of the more common ones and how they can be overcome.
Language is key to effective communication – even if you know what you mean, others may not. One of the clearest examples of a major ‘language barrier’ is if people don’t share the same spoken language. Whether you’re talking strategies with a sales or marketing team, speaking at a keynote event, or just asking for directions, a foreign language can make it difficult to communicate.
So how could you overcome this? Learning the language would be an ideal long-term answer, but that probably won’t help you in the crucial early stages of a project or business relationship. This is where it might be worthwhile investing in the services of a qualified translator or interpreter.
But a foreign language isn’t the only language barrier. Even when speaking the same language, it can often be what we say or how we say it that becomes the barrier. If you have a strong regional accent or local dialect, though you’re speaking the same language, it might be difficult for others to understand you. By speaking clearly – and more slowly if necessary – and cutting out any local or slang expressions, it should help reduce the number of blank faces looking back at you.
Another key tip for language is to know your audience. Whether you’re writing or speaking, any message that includes lots of technical, specialist, or industry jargon, acronyms, or abbreviations, might not be understood by people who are unfamiliar with the terms associated with your industry. By avoiding them, your message will be more easily understood by all.
But effective communication isn’t just about the use of language alone. The psychological or mental barriers in place by those you’re communicating to also need to be overcome for your message to resonate clearly.
While you might be communicating plainly, some may be too concerned with their own personal issues, feeling stressed, anxious, angry, or upset. This will make it harder for your message to cut through and make an impression. When there’s a feeling of distress, it’s more difficult for someone to concentrate or have a constructive conversation with you, and could end with missed or misunderstood information.
To help calm that person down and overcome their feelings at that moment, you may need to offer them some time and space alone to calm down and gather their thoughts. Or you can offer to listen to their issues and give advice. It will only be afterwards that the person will feel their mental barrier has been overcome, allowing themselves to be more receptive.
While communication takes many forms, some more subtle than others, it’s physical barriers that can also sometimes make effective communication harder. But fortunately, as they’re not verbal or mental issues, these are the barriers that should be easiest for you to overcome.
Consideration should be given to the environment. Being in conducive surroundings and making people comfortable in the space is vital to engagement. Rooms or areas can be too hot or too cold, have prolonged or distracting background noise, be too light or too dark, or have inadequate seating.
These are all issues that can affect how you deliver your communications as well as how they’re received. In these situations, peoples ability to overcome even more psychological barriers, such as attention span, tiredness, or boredom, can all impact negatively on what you’re trying to say.
Distance is also crucial to effective communication. While it’s far easier to talk face to face with someone in the same room, sometimes it’s not possible. So when staff, team members, partners, collaborators, or associates are in different parts of the building, in a different town or city, or even a different country, it makes communication much harder.
Phone calls and emails are obvious and convenient substitutes and both are essential in getting your message across quickly. But using technology to overcome the distance barrier is something that’s been highlighted during the global COVID-19 pandemic, with users on platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams rising dramatically.
Both have replaced traditional calls and emails to give us a successful face to face meeting space – albeit via video – removing the distance barrier altogether. These platforms give you the ability to recognise and use body language and tone to make a proper connection and communicate easily and more effectively.
Overcoming communication barriers with Clearfocus
With all these barriers removed or taken care of, you’ll be able to deliver your message to teams or colleagues in the most productive and successful way. But as we said at the start, being an effective communicator might not come naturally to everyone – and gaining the skills to become one takes time, patience, and practice.
Our 1-day Effective Communication Training course is definitely for you if you want to improve your or your team’s communication skills in any way. The course suits a more intimate group of up to 15 people and covers a range of topics and will be delivered by one of the Clearfocus fully qualified communication training professionals. It can even be tailored to meet your own requirements, helping you in any particular areas you want to focus on.
Your course can be pre-booked and arranged at a time, day, and venue of your choice anywhere in the UK. But for ease and convenience during any COVID restrictions, we can also deliver your training direct to your group via Microsoft Teams. For more information and to book your course today, call us on 07831 119 941 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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