Barriers To Effective Communication - Know Them, Overcome Them, And You Can Speak Productively

Barriers to effective communication help to inhibit our interactions with other people. They get in the way of our effectively communicating with others. The barriers can either originate within us or can occur as a result of outside interference.

What is effective communication?

To understand the nature, use and importance of barriers to effective communication it would help to revisit what we mean by being able to communicate effectively.

To communicate effectively we need to impart or exchange our information with the intended recipient in an efficient manner. And this does not just include the passing over of the information but also ensuring that the message is understood. And not just understood but responded to if the situation is appropriate.

So what barriers to effective communication might we experience?

Many things can come between us and effective communication, let us consider some now. Barriers to effective communication can be any of the following (either singly or acting together):

  • Words can mean different things to different people. So we need to be aware that our expected meaning may be different from that of the other person. This can have unfortunate repercussions at times.
  • We can see a conversation as a duel rather than a two way fact finding or sharing process
  • We can listen poorly to the other person and either misunderstand what is being said or respond poorly
  • We can talk and not listen at all, and try to monopolize the conversation
  • We can be thinking about a clever response rather than listen to what the other person is saying
  • We can be rude and finish other people's sentences and thoughts
  • There can be a clash of personalities - when we should be wary of the direction the conversation might take
  • We can have unrealistic expectations of the conversation, and just expect too much
  • We can try to control proceedings rather than have a two way intercourse
  • We can have difficulty hiding our boredom or disinterest in the conversation
  • We can exclude people from the conversation by how we act or what we say
  • We can be insincere in our approach to the communication process
  • We can go into a conversation and not expect much to occur - and we may not be disappointed as a result
  • We can have an authoritarian manner rather than a conciliatory one
  • We can judge the other person without sufficient cause other than a few words that have been said
  • We can disagree with the other person but there is a right and wrong way of making this known - do it with care and feeling (as next time it could be you on the receiving end)
  • Nobody likes to feel that the conversation is an interrogation rather than a simple chat
  • Don't question what the other person is saying at every opportunity

So many things can become barriers to effective communication, as we can see.

So there are many different types of barriers?

As we can see that communication barriers can take on many forms. Some we just need to be aware of in order to avoid them, others are things we need to steer more carefully around. Getting our communications right does take effort and a will to succeed. To get our message across may be the aim, with politeness, respect and civility our means, and clarity and meaning our tools, and words our vehicle.

Anything else we should be aware of?

What else need we know about barriers to effective communication? What other 'skills' are there to help us break through the fog of barriers to effective use of communication? The following gives a few of the other aspects of communicating that we need be aware of and utilize.


Listening is not just hearing the words said but a lot more. Words have context which needs to be taken in. Words are said with feeling and meaning, with gestures and mannerisms, all of which need to be taken into account.

In communication body language is very important, if not all important. We do not just communicate with our words but with our whole body. Any listener (and speaker) who does not take this into account does so at their peril.

Listening well is one of the best things we can do to overcome barriers to effective communication. Listening is giving our full attention to the other person. It helps to be enjoying the interchange. It helps to try to get the most out of the interplay. Sharing and giving as well as understanding and receiving. Communication at its best is a joy to participate in.


Silence can be a hindrance to communication. Silence can mean disinterest but can mean concentrated attentiveness. Yet it can also be a sign of commitment and dedication to the communication process.

An investment

See communication as an investment. See that it is time worth spending. See that it is worth the effort and worth giving of yourself. Because if you don't make that investment then the communication can fall by the wayside and an opportunity missed. It must be an investment to help overcome barriers to effective communication.


If you ask for something do not consider no to mean never. No can mean not now, I may be interested later. But if it is an unambiguous answer of no then it may be best to step back and regroup, rather than going full steam ahead in an attempt to change this decision. It may well not go down well.

Be friendly

When talking to someone be friendly. Do not push them into a corner, either physically, psychologically or verbally. You will only wind the other person up and communication will end. None of us likes to feel we are cornered and without an escape route.

By all means give as good as you take. But be fair. Be reasonable. Be polite. Be respectful and you will be seen as a person of integrity. You will be seen as a person worth speaking to and worth befriending. If you are not fair and always on the take people will avoid your company and much will be lost.


Shyness is something that I think we have all dealt with in our time. And for most of us it can continue in one shape or form. And what are we worried about?

  1. We can dislike talking to people we do not know
  2. We have difficulty in dealing with unpleasant encounters
  3. We can find it hard to cope with rejection
  4. We have trouble doing the things that we feel other people do easily

What can we do? We need to realize that

  1. Most people are friendly and willing to talk to us. What we have to do is to start making that first step, take a little chance and find out that we can speak to people. Once we have done it once we use the experience and the confidence obtained in our next encounter
  2. We must realize that everybody meets unpleasant situations. We need to remember not to take such episodes personally. There can be many reasons why other people let off steam and we can happen to be in the vicinity when it occurs. And if we are the cause of the upset then we must learn from the experience, and be big enough to apologise if appropriate
  3. We can also experience rejection in our life, just like everybody else. None of us has things our own way all the time, nor can we succeed at everything. Realize it makes us no less a person and we can accept these moments and move on with our life
  4. And at the end of the day are other people that much different from us . . .

By realizing our worth and capability we can overcome this barrier to effective communications.


Procrastination is the 'art' of putting things off. Letting doing things tomorrow appear a better option than doing it today, or right now. Often this is because we don't like doing the thing we are putting off; we see it as unpleasant in some way. We prefer to leave it for another time. With communication we can put off that telephone call, try to cry off from a meeting, or we can try to avoid speaking to someone we ought to speak with.

How to overcome this 'putting things off' until another day syndrome? We should try having a 'do it now' approach. We have to give it a shot. If we do that we can realize that our mind was intervening and persuading us (or allowing us to be persuaded). Start small. Speak to someone first, before they speak to you. Find out that the discomfort you envisaged is either less than you thought or it is not really unpleasant at all. Realize that you can do it, that you can speak to someone. The comfort and release is good and the relief of your success is real for you.

Your tongue

Do you control your tongue? Is your tongue over-controlled and you don't speak out when you might when spoken to in a critical manner. Or do you speak out at the least or little provocation? Or are you somewhere in the middle? Do we control our emotions and our tongue or do we let our feelings take over? We are all so different and our speech and communication are different, too. As long as we are conscious of what we are doing, what we are thinking, what we are saying and the way we are saying it, then we can proceed through life confidently.

How can we sum up?

So what can we really do about overcoming the barriers to effective communication that we come into contact with or exhibit ourselves?

When we speak to people why don't we relax? They are not trying to catch us out. Nor do they expect us to be on top form all the time. They expect a normal conversation. They want us to be ourselves. They want us to give of our self.

Be yourself

They don't expect us to come up with scintillating conversation, but they do expect us to converse with them. That is, they expect a two way process. They want us to give them the time of day and listen to what they have to say. As well contribute to the process. Listen to someone else with real interest and you may have found a friend for life.

People want us to share a bit of ourselves with them in our communication and our daily life. And we can do that, can't we? And in so doing we can overcome our barriers to effective communication.

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