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Chapter 1  Lecture:

  Barriers to Effective Communication

Recognizing barriers to effective communication is a first step in improving communication style.  Do you recognize these barriers from your own personal and professional experience?


Encoding BarriersThe process of selecting and organizing symbols to represent a message requires skill and knowledge.  Obstacles listed below can interfere with an effective message.


1. Lack of Sensitivity to Receiver.  A breakdown in communication may result when a message is not adapted to its receiver.  Recognizing the receiver’s needs, status, knowledge of the subject, and language skills assists the sender in preparing a successful message.  If a customer is angry, for example, an effective response may be just to listen to the person vent for awhile. 


2. Lack of Basic Communication Skills.  The receiver is less likely to understand the message if the sender has trouble choosing the precise words needed and arranging those words in a grammatically-correct sentence. 


3. Insufficient Knowledge of the Subject.  If the sender lacks specific information about something, the receiver will likely receive an unclear or mixed message.  Have you shopped for an item such as a computer, and experienced how some salespeople can explain complicated terms and ideas in a simple way?  Others cannot.


4. Information Overload.  If you receive a message with too much information, you may tend to put up a barrier because the amount of information is coming so fast that you may have difficulty comfortably interpreting that information.  If you are selling an item with twenty-five terrific features, pick two or three important features to emphasize instead of overwhelming your receiver (ho-hum) with an information avalanche.


5. Emotional Interference.  An emotional individual may not be able to communicate well.  If someone is angry, hostile, resentful, joyful, or fearful, that person may be too preoccupied with emotions to receive the intended message.  If you don’t like someone, for example, you may have trouble “hearing” them.


Transmitting Barriers: Things that get in the way of message transmission are sometimes called “noise.”  Communication may be difficult because of noise and some of these problems:


1. Physical Distractions.  A bad cellular phone line or a noisy restaurant can destroy communication.  If an E-mail message or letter is not formatted properly, or if it contains grammatical and spelling errors, the receiver may not be able to concentrate on the message because the physical appearance of the letter or E-mail is sloppy and unprofessional.


2. Conflicting Messages.  Messages that cause a conflict in perception for the receiver may result in incomplete communication.  For example, if a person constantly uses jargon or slang  to communicate with someone from another country who has never heard such expressions, mixed messages are  sure to result.  Another example of conflicting messages might be if a supervisor requests a report immediately without giving the report writer enough time to gather the proper information.  Does the report writer emphasize speed in writing the report, or accuracy in gathering the data?


3. Channel Barriers.  If the sender chooses an inappropriate channel of communication, communication may cease.  Detailed instructions presented over the telephone, for example, may be frustrating for both communicators.  If you are on a computer technical support help line discussing a problem, it would be helpful for you to be sitting in front of a computer, as opposed to taking notes from the support staff and then returning to your computer station.

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