Common Barriers to Communication

Modified: 15th Aug 2018
Wordcount: 1802 words

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There are many barriers that occur every single day that cause ineffective communication. Not many people are aware of these barriers. Studies have shown that not everyone is aware of their behavior when speaking or listening. Habits are hard to kick but it is not impossible. Some of these barriers can be avoided, some cannot, but that does not mean that there is no solution for it. Without putting the effort into avoiding some of these common communication barriers, miscommunications might occur. One should always be sincere when holding a conversation with someone therefore, these are some of the common communication barriers one should take note of. One of the most common communication barriers is language. Not everyone’s first language is the same, so trying to bring a message across could be difficult. It would of course be easier if both parties could speak the same language but if otherwise, then there could be other solutions for the problem. For example, during international business meetings, they could hire a translator. Another alternative would be to make the effort to learn a bit of the other party’s language to show sincerity in wanting to understand them better, and to avoid language barriers. Another scenario would be if a customer is not local and does not speak the native language, then we could try to find other ways to understand them. Most people have five senses, and if we don’t understand them, we could try other senses like seeing, which would mean, to ‘act’ it out for them. These could be some of the ways to communicate with someone who does not speak the same language as us. “However, even when communicating in the same language, the terminology used in a message may act as a barrier if it is not fully understood by the receiver(s). For example, a message that includes a lot of specialist jargon and abbreviations will not be understood by a receiver who is not familiar with the terminology used.”( Another common communication barrier is having poor listening skills. “We retain only about 50 percent of a ten-minute oral presentation immediately after we hear it, and about 25 percent of the same message after 48 hours” (Day & Rasberry, 1980, Page 43) Some barriers that could cause poor listening skills are, “laziness, disinterest, closed-mindedness, insincerity, boredom, etc.” (S. Golen, 1990 Page 25 to 35) and also, “Sometimes a listener and speaker experience communication problems due to effects of the thinking-speaking time differential. This differential results from the fact that the average person talks at a rate of about 125 words per minute, while a listener can process information at approximately 450 words per minute.” (Nixon & West, 1989) Because of this, we have time to think about other things and therefore get distracted and are not focused on what the speaker has to say. In some cases, there are people who often interrupt when someone is talking. “Interruptions are usually the result of a listener’s ego involvement or impatience with the speaker or the topic.” (Deborah Q. Gaut & Eileen M. Perrigo, 1998 Page 40) A reason behind this could be that the interrupter feels more knowledgeable and feels the need to correct others when he or she feels that the other party is wrong. Another reason could be that the interrupter feels comfortable with the person he or she is talking to and thinks that it is okay to do so. Some of the characteristics of poor listeners are impatience, lack of direct eye contact, constant fidgeting, etc. Body language is very important and is a key strategy to read a person. An example would be, the listener keeps looking at the time, keeps fiddling with things or does not look at the speaker in the eyes. This would give the speaker the impression that whatever he or she has to say is not important and it would also be showing that the listener is not showing any respect towards the speaker. There are also, cultural barriers. Different people have different beliefs and not everyone is knowledgeable of other cultures. Several barriers to intercultural communication have been identified, like “linguistic, physical, perceptual, experiential, verbal, etc” (Bell, 1992 ; Treece & Kleen, 1997) There is also an “Important but not often recognized or visible barrier to intercultural communication: that of stress. Stress often accompanies communication between people of different cultural backgrounds because of the high degree of uncertainty, unfamiliarity and threat involved in the process.” (Pedersen and Pedersen, 1985) It is because of the short period of time you have with that certain person of a different culture to talk or discuss about something, which creates a high level of pressure to want to leave a good impression especially if it is about business or working together. Sometimes both parties could be speaking the same language but because of cultural differences, it could be hard to understand it in their accent so it would be extremely embarrassing for him or her to repeat several times just for the other person to try and understand the message that the speaker is trying to put across.

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A stereotype is defined as “A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image” ( It is common to be misunderstood by other people but it can also be very frustrating. ”When an individual has a preconception about another individual, it makes it difficult for the individual not to view the other individual’s communication with prejudice.” ( There are so many types of stereotypes. For example, “Someone working in an insubordinate position might be deemed to be uneducated with little to offer, when in fact, this is not true and employers can lose out on valuable opportunities by not communicating with them, and including those in the lower-level positions in the creative process.” ( In addition, there are also gender stereotypes. “Gender roles typically call for men to be the more authoritative, in-control worker, with women as more emotional. This stereotype can adversely affect a woman’s role in the workplace, especially in senior management positions. Gender stereotypes prevent those with true, leadership and management capabilities from getting ahead. This adversely affects both the women and men in the workplace and their ability to communicate for the better of the company.” ( “Stereotypes based on race and ethnicity is not only morally wrong, but legally wrong as well, and can alienate employees. If employees are not communicating based on preconceived notions, they are not engaged in the same goals for the company and this will ultimately reflect in the company’s failures.” ( Everyone has been stereotyped by someone and/or has stereotyped someone before. It is one of the greatest communication barriers but yet it cannot be helped sometimes. It paints a picture of someone or something that may or may not be true, and instantly causes judgments without having to get to know the person, which is unfair.

There are other barriers like noise that affect effective communications. Noise could affect our hearing and we may not understand the message the speaker was trying to put across. That way, misunderstanding could occur. Especially if someone wanted instructions to be carried out but the person who is supposed to execute it, heard it differently. “For instance, you may assume that because people are nodding while you speak, they understand and agree with what you are saying. Similarly, if you invite questions about your message and get none, it would be easy to assume therearenone.The truth is, few people will risk the potential embarrassment of being the only one who doesn’t agree with or understand your message or doesn’t know what to ask. To assume they do would be a mistake.” ( In some cases, assumptions could be accurate, but if it is not, then it could lead to a communication breakdown. “We all use selective perception in composing and interpreting information” (Irene F. H. Wong and Michael D. Connor and Ulrike M. Murfett, 2006, Page 12) In conclusion, there are many barriers that cause ineffective communications. These are barriers that people should take into consideration in order to avoid misunderstandings and misjudgments. Being a good listener has its advantages. It helps us understand messages, instructions, etc better and understanding the message or instruction that is put across to us would help us perform better and/or meet customers’ expectations. But first of all, one must be willing to listen and be focused on the topic. A good listener should also respond appropriately. “Communication is two-way. A response is called for. It may be no more than applause – or even silence. But it is still a response, which will in turn be interpreted by the speaker.” (John Adair, 2009, Page 92) Being an effective speaker also has its advantages. When speaking, it has to be clear, simple, vivid and natural so that the message can be broad across clearly and that the listener understands. Overall, being a good listener and a good speaker affects effective communications. It works both ways.


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