Barriers to Effective Communication Workplace communication is not easy. This is a place where you meet people from different walks of life and also from different cultural background. Language is one of the major barriers to effective communication. Communication is a process by which you convey your message to someone or a group of people. And if the message is conveyed clearly and unambiguously, then it is known as effective communication. In effective communication, the message you had send would reach the receiver with very little distortion.
However, a communication becomes successful only if the receiver understands what the sender is trying to convey. When your message is not clearly understood you should understand that you are facing a barrier to communication. Barriers to effective communication could cause roadblocks in your professional and personal life and it could be one of the major hurdles in achieving your professional goals. Barriers to Effective Communication An effective communication barrier is one of the problems faced by many organizations.
Many social psychologists opine that there is 50% to 70% loss of meaning while conveying the messages from a sender to a receiver. They estimate there are four basic places where communication could be interpreted wrongly. A few barriers of effective communication in an organization are given below. Physical Barriers – One of the major barriers of communication in a workplace is the physical barrier. Physical barriers in an organization include large working areas that are physically separated from others. Other distractions that could cause a physical barrier in an organization are the environment, background noise
Language – Inability to converse in a language that is known by both the sender and receiver is the greatest barrier to effective communication. When a person uses inappropriate words while conversing or writing, it could lead to misunderstanding between the sender and a receiver. Emotions – Your emotions could be a barrier to communication if you are engrossed in your emotions for some reason. In such cases, you tend to have trouble listening to others or understanding the message conveyed to you. A few of the emotional interferences include hostility, anger, resentfulness and fear.
Lack of Subject Knowledge – If a person who sends a message lacks subject knowledge then he may not be able to convey his message clearly. The receiver could misunderstand his message, and this could lead to a barrier to effective communication. Stress – One of the major communication barriers faced by employees in most of the organization is stress. When a person is under immense stress, he may find it difficult to understand the message, leading to communication distortion. At the time of stress, our psychological frame of mind depends on our beliefs, experiences, goals and values.
Thus, we fail to realize the essence of communication. The above-mentioned barriers to effective communication are considered as filters of communications. You can overcome the barriers to communication through effective and active listening. Ref: www. buzzle. com Many people think that communicating is easy. It is after all something we’ve done all our lives. There is some truth in this simplistic view. Communicating is straightforward. What makes it complex, difficult, and frustrating are the barriers we put in the way. Here are the 7 top barriers. 1. Physical barriers
Physical barriers in the workplace include: • marked out territories, empires and fiefdoms into which strangers are not allowed • • closed office doors, barrier screens, separate areas for people of different status • • large working areas or working in one unit that is physically separate from others. Research shows that one of the most important factors in building cohesive teams is proximity. As long as people still have a personal space that they can call their own, nearness to others aids communication because it helps us get to know one another. 2. Perceptual barriers
The problem with communicating with others is that we all see the world differently. If we didn’t, we would have no need to communicate: something like extrasensory perception would take its place. The following anecdote is a reminder of how our thoughts, assumptions and perceptions shape our own realities: A traveller was walking down a road when he met a man from the next town. “Excuse me,” he said. “I am hoping to stay in the next town tonight. Can you tell me what the townspeople are like? ” “Well,” said the townsman, “how did you find the people in the last town you visited? ” Oh, they were an irascible bunch. Kept to themselves. Took me for a fool. Over-charged me for what I got. Gave me very poor service. ” “Well, then,” said the townsman, “you’ll find them pretty much the same here. ” 3. Emotional barriers One of the chief barriers to open and free communications is the emotional barrier. It is comprised mainly of fear, mistrust and suspicion. The roots of our emotional mistrust of others lie in our childhood and infancy when we were taught to be careful what we said to others. “Mind your P’s and Q’s”; “Don’t speak until you’re spoken to”; “Children should be seen and not heard”.
As a result many people hold back from communicating their thoughts and feelings to others. They feel vulnerable. While some caution may be wise in certain relationships, excessive fear of what others might think of us can stunt our development as effective communicators and our ability to form meaningful relationships. 4. Cultural barriers When we join a group and wish to remain in it, sooner or later we need to adopt the behaviour patterns of the group. These are the behaviours that the group accept as signs of belonging.
The group rewards such behaviour through acts of recognition, approval and inclusion. In groups which are happy to accept you, and where you are happy to conform, there is a mutuality of interest and a high level of win-win contact. Where, however, there are barriers to your membership of a group, a high level of game-playing replaces good communication. 5. Language barriers Language that describes what we want to say in our terms may present barriers to others who are not familiar with our expressions, buzz-words and jargon. When we couch our communication in such language, it is a way of excluding others.
In a global market place the greatest compliment we can pay another person is to talk in their language. One of the more chilling memories of the Cold War was the threat by the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev saying to the Americans at the United Nations: “We will bury you! ” This was taken to mean a threat of nuclear annihilation. However, a more accurate reading of Khruschev’s words would have been: “We will overtake you! ” meaning economic superiority. It was not just the language, but the fear and suspicion that the West had of the Soviet Union that led to the more alarmist and sinister interpretation. . Gender barriers There are distinct differences between the speech patterns in a man and those in a woman. A woman speaks between 22,000 and 25,000 words a day whereas a man speaks between 7,000 and 10,000. In childhood, girls speak earlier than boys and at the age of three, have a vocabulary twice that of boys. The reason for this lies in the wiring of a man’s and woman’s brains. When a man talks, his speech is located in the left side of the brain but in no specific area. When a woman talks, the speech is located in both hemispheres and in two specific locations.
This means that a man talks in a linear, logical and compartmentalised way, features of left-brain thinking; whereas a woman talks more freely mixing logic and emotion, features of both sides of the brain. It also explains why women talk for much longer than men each day. 7 Interpersonal barriers There are six levels at which people can distance themselves from one another: 1. Withdrawal is an absence of interpersonal contact. It is both refusal to be in touch and time alone. 2. Rituals are meaningless, repetitive routines devoid of real contact. 3. Pastimes fill up time with others in social but superficial activities. . Working activities are those tasks which follow the rules and procedures of contact but no more. • Games are subtle, manipulative interactions which are about winning and losing. They include “rackets” and “stamps”. • • Closeness is the aim of interpersonal contact where there is a high level of honesty and acceptance of yourself and others. Working on improving your communications is a broad-brush activity. You have to change your thoughts, your feelings, and your physical connections. That way, you can break down the barriers that get in your way and start building relationships that really work. Ref: www. hodu. om The Problem of Word Selection (how to use language) We live in a “verbal” environment. Words constitute the most frequently used tool for communicating. Words usually facilitate communication; however, their careless, improper use in a given situation can create a communication barrier. Arthur Kudner, an advertising executive, once told his son: “All big things have little names such as life and death, peace and war, or dawn, day, night, hope, love, and home. Learn to use little words in a big way. It is hard to do, but they say what you mean. When you don’t know what you mean – use big words; they often fool little eople. ” The words we use should be selected carefully. Dr. Rudolph Flesch, a specialist in words and communication, suggests a way to break through the word barrier: • Use familiar words in place of the unfamiliar • Use concrete words in place of the abstract • Use short words in place of long • Use single words in place of several Unfortunately, almost every commonly used word has more than one meaning. Also words have regional meanings or derive new meanings as a result of the development of new industries or fields. The meaning conveyed by the sender’s words depends upon the experience and attitude of the receiver.
Therefore, one way to penetrate the word barrier is for the sender to strive to speak or write in terms of the receiver’s experience and attitude. The better able he is to do this, the more successful the communication will be. Dr. S. E. Hayakawa, a U. S. Senator from California, expressed it very well when he said, “The meanings of words are not in the words; they are in us. ” Ref: www. bizmove. com When you choose the words for your message, you signal that you are a member of a particular culture or subculture and that you know the code. The nature of your code imposes its own barriers on your message.
Barriers also exist because words can be interpreted in more than one way. Language is an arbitrary code that depends on shared definitions, but there’s a limit to how completely any of us share the same meaning for a given word. To overcome language barriers, use the most specific and accurate words possible. Always try to use words your audience will understand. Increase the accuracy of your messages by using language that describes rather than evaluates and by presenting observable facts, events, and circumstances. Ref:www. ezinearticles. com Quality of Care and Patient Satisfaction ( as an example ) Language Barriers
Language barriers have been shown to affect the quality of health care received by LEP patients. In late 1999, the Institute of Medicine highlighted the effects of language barriers in its report on medical errors and patient safety (Kohn et al. 1999). Error rates were higher when physician and patient spoke different languages (Gandhi et al. 1998). Woloshin et al. (1995) described the association between language barriers and inaccurate medical history taking and misdiagnoses of medical conditions. Language barriers may also reduce patient’s abilities to follow provider instructions and adhere to treatments (Collins et al. 002; David and Rhee 1998; Manson 1988) or to comply with instructions for follow-up care (Enguidanos and Rosen 1997; Manson 1988). Poorer medical outcomes among patients with hypertension and diabetes were also associated with language barriers (Perez-Stable et al. 1997; Tocher and Larson 1998). However, the relationship between language barriers and adherence is not consistent (Kaplan et al. 1989). Language barriers may also lead doctors to over-treat LEP patients, sending patients for additional tests and procedures that increase costs of care and may carry additional risks to the patient (David and Rhee 1998; Lee and Rosenberg 1998).
Quality of care can also be measured by patient satisfaction. Research comparing English and non-English speaking patients reveal that language barriers were associated with lower patient satisfaction among non-English speaking patients (David and Rhee 1998; Morales et al. 1999). Findings from a mail survey by Morales et al. (1999) report significantly greater dissatisfaction with provider communication among Spanish-speaking respondents. Another survey of patients who sought care in an emergency department found that while over 70% of English-speaking patients were atisfied, only 52% of non-English speaking patients were satisfied (Carrasquillo et al. 1999). Non-English speakers were also less willing to return to the same emergency department for care and also reported more problems with communication. Other research shows that patient satisfaction increased when interpreter services were available and helped to reduce language barriers (Baker et al. 1998). Ref: www. hablamosjuntos. org (Portland state university) 10 Strategies for Overcoming Language Barriers (as solutions) By Kate Berardo
Language barriers are a common challenge in international business settings—and a two-way process. What native speakers often don’t realize is that frequently it is not the other person’s accent but their own way of speaking that creates the greatest barriers to effective communication. Use the strategies below to ensure you’re not put- ting up your own roadblocks to effective international communication. 1. Speak slowly and clearly. Focus on clearly enunciating and slowing down your speech. Even if you’re pressured for time, don’t rush through your communication.
Doing so often takes more time, as miscommunication and misunderstanding can result and you’ll ultimately have to invest additional time in clearing up the confusion. 2. Ask for clarification. If you are not 100% sure you’ve understood what others say, politely ask for clarification. Avoid as- suming you’ve understood what’s been said. 3. Frequently check for understanding. Check both that you’ve understood what’s been said and that others have fully understood you. Practice reflective listening to check your own un- derstanding (e. g. ‘So what I hear you saying is… ) and use open-ended questions to check other peo- ple’s understanding. Ask, ‘what’s your understand- ing of this process? ‘ instead of ‘is that clear? ‘ 4. Avoid idioms. Business language is often contextual, and there- fore culture specific. For example, in the US, base- ball terms are used extensively: ‘Straight off the Bat,’ ‘Ballpark figures,’ ‘Out in left field,’ ‘Touch base,’ ‘Strike a deal’. As a good general rule, if the phrase requires knowledge of other information— be it a game or metaphor—recognize that this may make your communication more difficult to be un- derstood. 5. Be careful of jargon.
Watch the use of TLAs (Three Letter Abbreviations) and other organizational language that may not be understood by others. If you use them, provide in parentheses a description of what these are so oth- ers can learn to use the same language you do. 6. Define the basics of business. In international business contexts terms such as: ‘success’, ‘doneness’, ‘meetings’, ‘punctuality’, etc. may mean different things to different people. Spend time early in your communication defining what these mean to you and others. Invest in build- ing a shared vocabulary. 7. Be specific. Spell out your expectations and deadlines clearly.
Instead of, ‘Please get back to me shortly,’ say ‘Please email the completed report by 5 pm Eastern Standard time on Wednesday, February 21. ’ 8. Choose your medium of communica- tion effectively. Carefully choose your form of communication (phone or video conference, email, instant mes- sage, etc. ). Be mindful not to ‘overuse’ email. While useful, there are times when the medium is likely to be ineffective. When a message is complex and complicated or there is tension or conflict that needs to be resolved, switch to another medium. 9. Provide information via multiple channels.
Follow phone calls with emails that summarize what’s been said. When possible, provide presenta- tions, agendas, etc. in advance so those working in their non-native language can get familiar with ma- terials. 10. Be patient. Cross-cultural communication takes more time. If not at all times, certainly initially you cannot expect your communication to occur with the same speed and ease as when you are communicating with someone from your own culture. Ref: www. culturosity. com Language barriers often go hand-in hand with cultural differences, posing additional problems and misunderstandings in the workplace.
When a person speaks little English, he/she can be intimidated and frustrated trying to communicate with English-speaking supervisors or co- workers and visa versa. Workers may act like they know what is being said, but in fact, may not know. In some jobs, this can be dangerous. A recent Business Journal article on the rising number of Hispanic workers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s construction industry pointed out that workers who speak little or no English are at much greater risk of having an accident on the job because of not having a full grasp of safety standards.
On-site training is available through the Carolinas Associated General Contractors (AGC) to help bridge the language barrier and improve safety conditions. But according to the AGC, some local contractors are taking advantage of this training and many others have assumed the “let’s do nothing until we are forced to” attitude, which could prove expensive considering the high costs of on-the-job injuries or deaths. 4Barriers to Successful Employment in Charlotte-Mecklenburg
All language barriers may not have such dire consequences, but they can contribute to a lack of productivity, mistakes being made or general lack of trust between the employer and workers, all of which could be avoided if communication were clearer. Even if workers can speak English fairly well, the lingo, slang or jargon that is commonly used by Americans or is specific to different industries can create difficulties for foreign workers. For example, someone not familiar with the expression could easily misinterpret the term “off the top of my head”.
Another example comes from a South African worker who indicated she was terribly confused when she heard someone say he was wearing a toboggan. She was trying to visualize this person with a sled on his head. We take it for granted that everyone knows what we are talking about. Not knowing these terms does not imply a person isn’t smart or capable, but that he/she simply may not have learned the words or jargon that are commonly used by others on the job or in everyday conversation. Ref: www. charlotteworks. org How to Communicate Across Language Barriers Exercise patience. Do not anticipate too much too quickly as this will ? cause confusion and frustration. 2 In the instance where certain people understand English better than they speak it, request them to demonstrate their understanding through actions rather than words. 3 Avoid jokes. Your humor might be misunderstood and some people might see the joke at their expense. 4 Never raise your voice and speak slowly and clearly. 5 Written communication must be done in the “active” tense. 6 Determine the target audience. 7 The shorter the word, the wider the audience Always write in the third person i. e. Organization / Chairman etc. 9 Avoid writing in “capital / italics” letters. 10 People for whom English is a second language, should be encouraged to attend English lessons, which will improve their overall communication. 11 Face to face communication should be used whenever possible. 12 Pictures and diagrams are easier to understand or interpret compared to verbal communication. 13 Simple written language must be used when written communication is required. 14 Avoid starting every sentence with the same wording. 5 Do not demonstrate annoyance if people do not understand you at first. Ref: www. ehow. com 5 Tips to Overcome Language Barriers With the combination of growing multiculturalism and increased overseas outsourcing, there is a greater demand on communication skills than ever before. Not only do you need to be able to explain yourself and understand others, but you need to do this regardless of their native tongue. Here are a few tips that I’ve found to be helpful in my dealings with people who speak another language, or have a very heavy accent that I find hard to understand.
Keep it Simple Simple vocabulary means more people can understand what is being talked about. This goes both ways – when talking to someone who is weaker in the language you speak, or when they are speaking to you. Big words don’t make you look smart. Being quickly and clearly understood does. Use written communication when possible Written communication removes accents that might be difficult to understand and it gives the author and reader the ability to re-read the text to gain a better understanding of what is trying to be communicated. Remain Focused
You should be attentive and patient when communicating with anyone, but when there is a substantial language barrier, it is even more important. Look them in the eyes and pay close attention to the words that they say. Try to piece what you can together, and repeat what you think they’ve said back to them so they can approve or try again. Try Many people are not even willing to try and communicate, as they do not see it is worth the effort, or they believe that someone else will do it for them. The harder you try at something the more likely it is that you will succeed.
Show that you are making an effort to understand, and chances are the person you are trying to communicate with will put more effort in to communicating with you. Teach Find language courses that are offered in your area, and send your staff that could benefit from the teaching. A bit of professional help could go a long way. Just don’t forget to reinforce the importance of simplicity. Ref: www. devjargon. com Barrier: Language? While it’s obvious that language barriers can impede communication, even people who speak the same language can run into communication barriers.
Verbal and non-verbal language are both equally important, and not understanding jargon-even when used within your own organization, say within another department-can cause misunderstandings. How to remove it: Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or to restate the issue or problem to make sure it is understood by everyone. This is also important in a group context. It’s not a bad idea, especially when dealing with more technical or specialized professions or departments, to clarify anything that not everyone may understand. Ref: www. businessknowledgesource. com
Communicating Effectively: Building Bridges over Language Barriers in the Workplace ( to do as solutions) As our country’s workforce changes to include an increasing number of internationally trained professionals, so does the need to communicate across language barriers in the workplace. Are you faced with the challenge of communicating with colleagues or employees whose English is limited? This challenge can be frustrating, often leading to a fractured and less productive workplace. Here are some simple tips to help you improve your communication with non-native English speakers: 1. Speak clearly
The simplest way to help a non-native English speaker understand you better is to improve the clarity of yourspeech. This is best achieved by focusing on enunciation. • Try to pronounce your words and syllables clearly and distinctly. • Avoid slurring words together. “What did you say” is much easier to understand than “Whudjuhsay? ” • Slow down a little (especially if you’re a naturally fast talker), but not to the point where it is completely unnatural. Keep the speed and flow to your language as natural as is possible without sacrificing clarity. • Resist the tendency to increase the volume of your voice in order to improve clarity. . Mind your language To successfully communicate across a language barrier you must also be very mindful of the words and sentence structures you are using. It is almost always necessary to adjust your language to some degree and this takes conscious effort. Don’t just focus on what you have to say; focus on saying it in a way that your colleagues can understand. 5. Try to avoid slang, jargon and idioms; your words may be understood, but the meaning missed. 6. Avoid words that may be misunderstood, choosing simpler ones with the same meaning instead. 7. Be concrete, asking specifically for what you want.
Instead of saying “I wanted to see if we might be able to start a little earlier and get a good jump on things”, try “Can we meet earlier tomorrow so that we can have more time to get this done? ” 8. Avoid negative questions, such as “Are you not coming? ” 9. Avoid double questions, such as “Do you want me to wait or shall I go ahead? ” 10. Use the active rather than passive voice, saying “Please send me that report”, instead of “That report needs to be sent to me. ” 3. Simplify Too much information that is poorly organized can be counterproductive in any situation, but it is especially challenging for a non-native English speaker.
Take the time to consider what it is you want to communicate, why you want to communicate this and how you can do it in the clearest possible way. ? Organize your thoughts so that your communication has a logical flow to it and can easily be followed. ? Stick to one subject at a time. ? Beware of lengthy, abstract explanations. ? Break complex instructions down step by step. 4. Check for understanding George Bernard Shaw said, “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. When communicating across cultural and language barriers, we can never assume full understanding; we must confirm it. ? Don’t ask “Do you understand? ” to confirm meaning as the answer may be ‘yes’ even if it is “no”; ask specific questions instead. ? Ask the listener to summarize or rephrase what has been said. ? Watch for non-verbal responses that might indicate a lack of understanding. ? To check your own understanding of what has been communicated to you, repeat what you have heard in your own words and ask if you have heard correctly. If spoken communication is not working well, make use of body language (gestures and facial expressions) or a paper and pen, spelling out words that might be misunderstood due to pronunciation issues. 5. Be supportive English is a complex language and non-native English speakers must often make a great and constant effort to understand and be understood. When they are not successful in this, they may feel inadequate and powerless; feelings that can interfere with their job performance and satisfaction. A patient, understanding employer can go a long way toward preventing or relieving such feelings. Communicate with compassion, trying to put your self in the other’s position. ? Give encouragement, which will increase people’s confidence and comfort level in communicating with you. ? Take turns (make a point and then listen to the response). Use pauses often when communicating, allowing time for the listener to digest what you have said and form responses. ? Plan on taking a little extra time for confirming understandings. ? Share responsibility for poor communication. Saying “I’m sorry it’s taking me so long to understand” takes the pressure off the speaker. Take the time to listen and understand; Good communication is as much about listening as it is about speaking. Communicating across language barriers in the workplace is not easy, but you do not have to settle for a communication gap. Build bridges by communicating as clearly as possible, checking for comprehension and doing your best to understand and encourage. By doing these things, you will be developing stronger, more successful work relationships with your colleagues, bringing them and your company that much closer to reaching their full potential Ref: www. catalystcommunication. ca