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Barriers to Effective  Communication and Ways to overcome the Barriers Notes-CSEET

Barriers to Effective  Communication and Ways to overcome the Barriers Notes-CSEET

Barriers to Communication

There are certain barriers that cause communication failures. Communication failures may have serious effects. They affect personal or professional relationship to the extent of causing a rupture. At the personal level, such failures may cause low self-esteem. As the confidence level falls, the productivity graph also plunges lower and lower.

Failure to communicate effectively within the organisation, may cause disruption or delays in achieving targets. From the point of view of finances, a communication failure may mean higher project cost and thus affect profitability. In business, the role of communication is even more important. A failure to communicate effectively may result in financial loss. For example, a failure to explain the terms clearly may lead to the cancellation of an order. There may even be loss of goodwill if an aggrieved customer is not handled tactfully.

Communication failures may be caused due to many reasons. A few of them are as follows:

(i)    Lack of Planning : Every message is conveyed with a specific purpose in mind. One needs to know one’s own abilities to express the message well. Simultaneously, the personality and attributes of the recipient and the limitations of the medium also have to be considered. If a message is communicated without adequate planning, the desired result would not be obtained.

For example, an invitation to potential investors to deposit money in a mutual fund may not offer all the relevant details, such as entry and exit points and all the risks involved. This would lead to a loss of interest of the investors in the scheme. While drafting a message, one has the option of revising it. In oral communication, the words are comparable to arrows, once released, they do not return. Therefore, one must choose one’s words with care.

(ii)   False Assumptions : In many communication situations, the sender starts with several assumptions, which may not be true. The receiver may also wish to be understood in a certain way and encourage false assumptions by the sender. Therefore, the result will be anything but along the expected lines.

For example, a Quality Control Manager should first check whether the workers are familiar with the Six Sigma Standards before pulling them up for non-adherence. Their silence during the verbal onslaught may only mean that they do not want to admit their ignorance.

(iii)   Ambiguity : We must remember that our intentions are strictly private. They are only known to us. Therefore, the receiver may not accurately understand the meaning intended by us. A wrong inference is often drawn when the message yields more than one meaning. For example, the instruction that relevant details must be submitted for preparation of order by Saturday is ambiguous. It does not clarify whether the details are required by Saturday or that the order must be prepared by that day.

(iv)  Distortions : many distortions in communication do not register because the receiver is busy or preoccupied with other things. While the sender believes that he has delivered the message correctly and the desired action will follow, the truth is that the receiver has not understood it at all; or he may have done so in part only. It is also common for a receiver to distort the meaning to suit his expectations.

‘Productivity linked bonus will be paid on the 7th of next month subject to realisation of outstanding payments ‘has a conditional clause. The workers could conveniently forget this when they storm the office to claim the money on the 7 th.

(v)   Passing Judgments : Many communication failures are caused because the message tends to pass a judgment against the receiver. Therefore, it is not received at its face value. Giving precedence to expression of opinion over the facts and use of offensive or annoying expressions ensure that the receiver becomes guarded and defensive.

For example, a supervisor was aghast when he found a worker using a welding torch close to where the inflammable material was stored. He showered abuses at the worker, pushed him away and accused him of trying to destroy the factory. When he returned after ordering the removal of the material, the workers had proceeded on a spontaneous strike. It took half a day to assuage the feelings of the striking workers and to restore normalcy.

Had the supervisor only stated the facts and explained the risks, the communication failure and the repercussions could have been avoided.

(vi)  Implied Meanings : Messages may not always convey a meaning in a straightforward manner. If the background of the sender and the receiver is not similar. In such a case it is possible for the latter not to uncover the implied meaning. For example, a reference to weather is often indicative of a desire to change the topic of discussion. Lack of familiarity with slang or colloquial expressions often causes communication failures.

(vii) Lack of Trust : The relationship between the sender and the receiver plays an important role in a effective communication. If the two of them do not share trust and understanding, there is a strong possibility of a communication failure. The information shared by them will be minimal. Both of them will also tend to treat the information received with suspicion.

For example, even a compliment paid by a hostile boss is likely to be received by a subordinate with caution. He may wonder what the actual intention of the boss is.

(viii) Problem of Semantic Distortion : Messages communicated through words may be distorted intentionally. However, there are words that often mean different things to different people and thus cause non-deliberate distortions. The senior selects the words according to his own frame of reference which he thinks appropriate to convey the meaning intended to be communicated. The receiver, on the other hand, reads or listens to the message and interprets it within his own frame of reference.

Ways to Overcome Barriers to Communication

In order to remove hindrances in the way of communication the following steps are worth consideration:

(1)   Clarify Ideas before Communication

The person sending the communication should be very clear in his mind about what he wants to say. He should know the objective of his message and, therefore, he should arrange his thoughts in a proper order.

(2)   Communicate According to the Need of the Receiver

The sender of the communication should prepare the structure of the message not according to his own level or ability but he should keep in mind the level, understanding or the environment of the receiver.

(3)   Consult Others before Communication

At the time of planning the communication, suggestions should be invited from all the persons concerned. Its main advantage will be that all those people who are consulted at the time of preparing the communication plan will contribute to the success of the communication system.

(4)   Be Aware of Language, Tone and Content of Message

The sender should take care of the fact that the message should be framed in clear and beautiful language. The tone of the message should not injure the feelings of the receiver. As far as possible the contents of the message should be brief and excessive use of technical words should be avoided.

(5)   Convey Things of Help and Value to the Listener

The subject matter of the message should be helpful to the receiver. The need and interest of the receiver should specially be kept in mind. Communication is more effective in such a situation.

(6)   Ensure Proper Feedback

The purpose of feedback is to find out whether the receiver has properly understood the meaning of the information received. In the face-to- face communication, the reaction on the face of the receiver can be understood.

But in case of written communication or some other sort of communications some proper method of feedback should be adopted by the sender.

(7)   Consistency of Message

The information sent to the receiver should not be self- contradictory. It should be in accordance with the objectives, policies, programmes and techniques of the organisation. When a new message has to be sent in place of the old one, it should always make a mention of the change otherwise it can create some doubts.

(8)   Follow up Communication

In order to make communication effective the management should regularly try to know the weaknesses of the communication system. In this context effort can be made to know whether to lay more stress upon the formal or the informal communication would be appropriate.

Similarly, suggestions can be invited in respect of the medium of communication (oral, written and gestural) to know as to which medium would be more effective and appropriate.

(9)   Be a Good Listener

It is the essence of communication that both the sender and the receiver should be good listeners. Both should listen to the each other’s point of view with attention, patience and positive attitude. A sender can receive much relevant information by being a good listener.

Sample Questions

  1. The Communication within the organisation is known as __________.

(a)   Internal communication

(b)   External communication

(c)   Informal communication

(d)   Verbal communication

  1. When words are used in communication, either spoken or written, this kind of communication is known as:

(a)   Verbal communication

(b)   Non-verbal communication

(c)   Upward communication

(d)   Downward communication

  1. Non-verbal communication does not includes:

(a)   Body language

(b)   Sign language

(c)   Para language

(d)   Oral communication

  1. The channel of communication which is mostly associated with gossip and rumours, is called:

(a)   Formal communication

(b)   Grapevine

(c)   Social gatherings

(d)   Upward communication

  1. __________ to communication may occur if the transmitter and receiver assign different meanings to the same word or use different words for the same meaning.

(a)   Semantic barriers

(b)   Physical barriers

(c)   Socio-Psychological barriers

(d)   None of the above


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