Common Communication Barriers (With Examples)
At work, you will use a variety of verbal and nonverbal communication tools and tactics to share information and maintain business operations. As an employee, you might sometimes face obstacles that make communication challenging. When communication barriers arise, it can be difficult to maintain and develop relationships with colleagues, leaders or clients. This often leads to confusion and can make your day-to-day duties more difficult. By recognizing these barriers and being aware of your own communication habits, you’ll be better able to resolve these issues when they come up. To help, here are five common barriers to effective communication:
Using industry jargon
Providing too much information at once
Differing communication styles
Language and hearing barriers
Let’s take a closer look at each of these barriers and ways to overcome them.
Using industry jargon
Every industry has its own set of unique words and phrases. While using these terms can seem more efficient at times, it’s often confusing for those outside the field or with little or no professional experience. Using jargon or highly technical language can abstract your messages and make it more challenging for people to understand important information. Instead, try and avoid jargon and break down abbreviations. For example, while someone in marketing or sales may be familiar with the term “KPI,” an employee in product development may not know it stands for “key performance indicator” or that it’s a value an organization measures to determine how well a business is achieving a business objective. By taking the time to explain the term, you can ensure everyone comprehends your message. Doing so also helps people feel more included, confident and able to be present and productive.
Providing too much information at once Whether you’re giving a presentation during a team meeting, training a new employee or explaining a product to a customer, it’s easy to share an excess of information. Sometimes you may feel that the more details you provide, the clearer your message. However, providing too much information can complicate your message and make it harder for your audience to understand. To make it easier for people to comprehend your message, keep your explanation concise and only share what’s most relevant to them. If you’re sharing a presentation or using written communication, be sure to use bulleted lists instead of large blocks of text. Offer time for your audience to ask questions, whether it be at the end or during your discussion—this is a good time to share additional details that they are ready to consume.
Differing communication styles Everyone has their own unique communication style. Some people are outwardly expressive while others maintain a more neutral tone. Some people use hand gestures when speaking in front of an audience while others avoid them. Sometimes, these differences can become communication barriers. For example, someone who is highly detailed and specific in their messages may have trouble understanding a communicator who prefers to use generalities. Here are a few things you can do to help get your point across to people who have different communication styles:
Use a confident tone No matter your method of communication, always remain confident and self-assured. If you’re speaking, speak clearly and audibly. If you’re writing, try to avoid phrases like “I think” or “I hope” or “I guess.”
Include examples When explaining something, it’s often helpful to illustrate your point with examples. For instance, if you’re training an employee on a tool, demonstrate it for them. Be cognizant of learnings styles that might exist in your audience.
Ask if anyone needs clarification When you’re finished sharing a point, ask your audience if they need clarification and make yourself available for follow-up questions to ensure they understand your meaning. You can do this by asking, “Does anyone have follow-up questions?” or “Is that clear to everyone?”
Mirror other communication styles If you’re in a one-on-one meeting, try to model your style of communication after the person you’re speaking with.
Language and hearing barriers If someone has a hearing impairment or is not fluent in your language, they may have a challenging time understanding what you’re saying. Even if they understand some of your message, there’s a chance they may miss critical information. In these circumstances, it’s important to make all the necessary arrangements to ensure you’re able to effectively communicate with each other. For example, you may need to request the services of a translator or sign language interpreter.
Physical barriers Another one of the most common communication barriers is physical boundaries. While face-to-face communication is generally the most effective, it’s not always possible—especially for businesses with multiple locations or remote workers. When dealing with physical barriers, it’s important to adapt your communication techniques. For example, if you’re speaking with someone on the phone, you can’t rely on non-verbal communication such as hand gestures, facial expressions and other cues, so you’ll need to ensure all expressions are verbal. If you’re communicating primarily through email or chat, it’s crucial you use the same etiquette you would use in spoken conversations, such as beginning a message exchange with a greeting, so you don’t come across as terse or impolite. Clear and straightforward communication is essential for maintaining a productive and safe working environment. Additionally, well-developed communication skills are crucial for success in any career. By taking the time to understand and identify communication barriers, and work to resolve these challenges, you can ensure a positive experience for your fellow employees as well as any customers you serve.