Question : What is meant by barriers to communication? How and why do they occur? Whenever you report negative information to your boss, she never passes it to her colleagues or supervisors, even though you think the information is important and should be shared, what are the barriers to communication are operating in this situation? What can you do to encourage more sharing of this kind of information?
Introduction to communication :
Now a days the whole world is going to form in a small village and the main factor which has been playing an important role is communication. Communication is a sharing process of ideas, thoughts, hopes, aspirations and emotions. People interact with each other in such a manner that they will set some information or knowledge from one generation to another. It dramatically distinguishes humans from other forms of life. It allows us to organize and work together in groups. In fact, without communication, there can be no social organization.
Communication, then is important to human society and to organisations in general. Its importance is even more pronounced for business organsiations specifically. If we think about them, these words of communication expert Harold Janis are certainly true "The world of business is a world of action. Products are designed, made and sold. People are hired, services are rendered, policies are devised and implemented. Jobs are learned and performed. Yet there is no practical way in which any of these events can take place without communication".
Overall communication is not merely the process of transmitting information, neither is it merely the message itself. Communication is not a set of techniques, a beautifully structured letter or an impressive speech may still not get our ideas across. Finally it is not just a sense of rapport. Communication means all these things and more.
Why is communication imperfect?
As we know that communication is an extremely complex process. Even one works hard to understand a subject and to write or speak effectively about it, one cannot be sure that his / her meaning has been received exactly. In fact every person doesn’t think alike, no message but the most simplistic is ever perceived precisely as it exists in the communicator’s mind. This loss of meaning, which may block communication, is often called "noise". Other communication experts call these conditions – "Communication fall off", others call them "distortion" or "interference". Regardless of what we call them, these unavoidable barriers exist even in the best of situations. I don’t refer here to lack of skill-although bad organization, bad delivery or bad grammar would certainly block communication. Instead I mean those barriers that may exist despite your skill, barriers over which you have no control, barriers that make communication necessarily imperfect.
Even though, we rarely communicate absolutely perfectly, learning about the various barriers to communication can make us aware of and help us avoid certain pitfalls. Specifically, we should beware of possible psychological, semantic and physical barriers.
Psychological barriers :
Psychological barriers include group identification, self image, emotions, perceptions and selectivity.
Group identification :
Generally, people live in society, in fact everyone wants to live in society and family. Since, we live in society and of course family, We contain different groups like friends’ group, family group, college group and different age groups. Sometimes, infact most of the times it happens that our ideas may not be matched with other persons, since we know communication is not a one way process, so, matching of ideas depends on both sender and receiver. If they think alike, the ideas will be matched, if they do not think same, ideas will not be matched. For example father’s ideas may not match with son’s ideas, like that womens’ ideas may not match with men’s ideas. So, we can say that group identification is a kind of barrier.
Self Centred Attitude :
Self centered attitude means we do something or we see and hear something because of our interest or desire. For example a student pays attention to study because that is related with the course. If teacher starts teaching other topic, student may not pay attention to teacher. So, self centered attitude also blocks communication sometimes.
Self image :
We have different ideas of ourselves. We obviously think different from the people. Self image means our ideas about ourselves and our personality. Sometimes, we think that we are better than the others. It blocks the communication, because if everybody will be started saying "I’m the best" nobody would listen to them because nobody wants to call himself / herself worst.
Emotional Barriers :
One possible psychological block is emotional. For example, you might be emotionally blocked if you are announcing a new policy you know will be unpopular. Giving the first major presentation on your job or writing to someone you dislike. The people with whom you are communicating are also subject to emotional blocks. They may feel indifferent or hostile towards you or your subject or be biased against you perhaps because of your youth, sex, race, relatives, friends or even clothes or against your subject perhaps because they think its illogical.
Perceptual Barriers :
Even if there are no emotional blocks, every person perceives things differently. Although, we all live in the same objective world, we all live in different subjective worlds. Communication involves perception and perception is never precise. One of the psychological block is perceptual.
One perceptual problem is that people perceive things differently, given precisely the same data, people see, interpret or respond to them differently. So, we can say perception is not precise.
As a business example of perceptual problem, imagine everyone in a company receiving a copy of the annual report, an accountant may concentrate only on one footnote in the financial statement, a sales person may look at nothing but the marketing charges and a public relations officer may respond only to the quality of the brochure itself. It shows us that each reader receives the same data but perceives them differently.
A second perceptual problem is caused by people ‘filling in’ information without checking its accuracy. As a business example, your boss might ask you to turn in a report ‘right away’. You work late night because you assume she means as soon as humanly possible. In fact she meant before the end of the week. In this case, you ‘filled in’ information.
A final perceptual problem is that people’s perception are based on their own experiences. We perceive what we expect to perceive. People don’t necessarily resent or dislike the unknown or unexpected. They simply don’t perceive it at all. For example imagine this scene: a father and his son are driving to work one morning when suddenly they’re involved in a terrible car crash. The father is killed instantly and the son is badly hurt. An ambulance rushes the son to a hospital. In the admitting room the nurse says "we have got to take him straight into surgery or he may die". They rush him down the hall to surgery. The surgeon walks in takes one look at the boy and says "I can’t operate on him. He’s my son". How can this be? Students come up with all kinds of ingenious answers. The father is a priest, the son was adopted. The correct answer is that the surgeon was the boy’s mother. Many people don’t think of this answer because their experiences have convinced them that surgeons are male. Similarly, people in business may not take in information because it runs counter to their expectations.
A final set of psychological barriers exists because of competition for peoples’ time and attention- "The selectivity block". we all are bombarded with information. Sources, such as newspapers, magazines, technical journals, reports, memo, letters, meetings, radio, television, videotapes, computer printouts, terminal displays and electronic mail. We simply cannot absorb all this information flowing our way, so, we must screen it selectively.
One factor in the way people select is timing. Some messages that may be effective at one time might be blocked or even detrimental at another time. For example a letter of congratulation or condolence sent out immediately after the event is more effective than one sent later. A meeting about accident prevention gets more attention if it follows an accident than if it precedes one. A report turned in late may have a highly negative effect if your supervisor has been anxiously awaiting it or may have little effect if he is busy with other matters. A rush typing assignment may affect your secretary differently at 4:45 pm than at 9:30 am.
Another selection factor is context. In one research experiment, subjects were shown two identical pictures of a rail road train in a station. One captioned ‘parting’ and the other ‘arriving’ on a scale ranging from ‘sad’ to ‘happy’ the subjects tended towards ‘sad’ for the first and ‘happy’ for the second. The subjects received the same data but – the suggestiveness of the context- the captions influenced the way they perceived the picture. In the business world, you might be more apt to read an article if it appears in a magazine you respect or a report if it is accompanied by a cover memo from your boss. Similarly, you might tend to pay more attention to a presentation if it is held in a boardroom or a well appointed conference room, or listen more attentively to a sales talk in an elegant restaurant or hotel.
One more aspect of selectively, we tend to remember the extremes and forget the middle ground. Think about comments you may have gotten from a teacher, a coach or a boss. Most people remember that most positive and the most negative and forget the neutral or middle ground comments. Therefore, your communication may be blocked or ‘selected out’ simply because it does not contain startling positive or negative news.
Semantic and physical barriers :
The first set of barriers we just discussed has to do with what is going on in our audiences’ minds, as a result of their psychological state. The second set of barriers has to do with what goes on in their minds as a result of the words you choose and the way things look.
1 Semantic blocks :
Words, of course are symbols and therefore limited because they cannot have precisely the same meaning for everyone. Since, words can mean different things, their different meanings may block communication. The study of word choice is called ‘semantics’. So, the kind of blocks that arise from word choice are called ‘semantic’ blocks.
Even if you are skilled enough to avoid problems, such as incomprehensible jargon and overly pompous words, you may still run into semantic problems because of the different shades of meaning between words. Semanticists call this difference – the impression or aura associated with a word – its ‘connotation’ as distinguished from its ‘denotation’ or explicit formal definition. Consider for example, the difference between inexpensive and cheap. Cheap has a more negative connotation. Consider the differences between heavy and weighty, soiled and filthy, divide and sever.
We find a more subtle connotative difference between say, hold and accommodate. Accommodate has a more positive connotation. Consider the subtle differences between chronic and inveterate, stately and majestic, command and direct, compute and calculate.
Another semantic barrier may occur even if you have considered connotation. A word may be misunderstood because it has one meaning for you and another for someone else. Each person filters words through his / her own memory, extracting meanings that are somewhat different in every case. For example, consider the possible connotations of these words to the following pairs of people. The word ‘pig’ to a ‘farmer’ and a ‘police officer’, the word ‘profit’ to a ‘shareholder’ and a ‘consumer activist’, the word ‘credit’ to an ‘accountant’ and a ‘school registrar’ , the word ‘bear’ to a ‘stockbroker’ and a ‘camper’. Problems with people perceiving the same word in different ways are especially. Likely any time you use (1) abstract words such as honesty, liberal, conservative, immoral, democracy or discrimination or
Indefinite terms such as ‘as soon as possible’, ‘in a timely manner’ ‘effectively’, when you have a chance, moderate or several
2. Physical barriers :
Communication does not consist of words alone. Another set of barriers is caused by your own physical appearance, your audience or the content of the document or the presentation. Your ideas, however good and however skillfully imparted are at the mercy of various potential physical barriers.
For writing, there is a whole barrage of possible physical blocks. No matter, how well you write it- for example a document may be illegible for various reasons, jammed and jagged margins, fingerprints or smudges, a faulty typewriter ribbon, unclear photocopies, unreadable word – processor printout, water or coffee spots, or messy corrections. Another set of physical barriers might be caused by the paper itself. A poor quality of stationary, for example, or inappropriate use of cheap stationary when a glossy printed brochure might be needed to imply, prestige or inappropriate use of glossy brochure when a simple photocopy might be needed to imply haste.
For speaking just as many physical barriers abound, besides those caused by lack of skill, such as mumbling, not enunciating, speaking too quickly or using distracting gestures. Noises may occur inside the room itself. Such as hissing ventilation, blowing air conditioning, clattering typewriters, ringing telephones, slamming doors or outside the building’ such as traffic, construction or airplanes. Finally your message may be blocked because the people in your audience are uncomfortable, they cannot hear because of bad acoustics or a bad sound system, they cannot see because of inadequate lighting, they are too warm or too cold or they lack comfortable seating.