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Key to an effective communication
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As you saw, sometimes - despite our best intentions - what we try to communicate gets lost in translation. We say/write one thing but the other person hears/reads something else and, as a result, misunderstandings and conflicts arise. Fortunately, you can learn how to communicate more clearly and effectively.
To be effective in communication, we must be aware that BARRIERS to communication are aspects or conditions that interfere in an effective exchange of ideas or thoughts.
Types of barriers:
Physical barriers are the environmental and natural conditions that act as a barrier in communication in sending message from sender to receiver.

  • Faulty organisational structures, like large working areas, closed doors, separate areas for people, interfere with an effective teamwork.
  • Geographical distance also affects the message. Distance adds more requirements and barriers to communication as greater the distance, the more technical channels are needed. The sender and receiver need to include machines as mediums, encoding, decoding, etc., defects in medium of communication, network facilities, mechanical breakdowns. Information overload - when information becomes more than that can be received at a particular time by the receiver, then communication fails. The receiver does not have the capacity to get all the information and can miss some important points or misinterpret the meaning of the whole message altogether. The message will not get the desired outcome causing the communication to not be effective and act as a barrier. Work overload and information duplication also help to cause physical communication barrier.
  • Time and distance – If a message is not sent in inappropriate time, the message will not have the effect that it should have, as the intention will not be met. This causes barrier in communication. So, the time of the message should be accurate. The person from Asia will not be able to Skype a person in U.S. if the time zone difference is wrong and the second person is sleeping.
  • Noise - outside disturbance like phone calls, bad handwriting/typing, late arrivals (physically disturbs the meeting, by interrupting the speaker and participant; as well the person who is late misses part of information that has been presented before his/her arrival), etc.
Semantic and language barriers are similar sounding words, multiple pronunciations, multiple meanings, different languages, no clarity in speech, using jargons, not being specific.

See an example video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3a3fgUkw6c  

Socio-psychological barriers are different attitudes and opinions, emotions, stress, fields of experience, group identification, distrust.
Organisational barriers. Loss or distortion of messages as they pass from one level to another, messages not read completely or not understood correctly, information gap if upper level does not know the true state of affairs, lack of a communication policy, authoritarian attitude from the management staff, poorly defined authority and responsibility roles.
Cross-Cultural barriers rise as the mind-set of people of different cultures are different, the language, values, concept of time, social relation, concept of space, gestures.
Tips for overcoming communication barriers:

On an individual level:
1.    Select the most appropriate channel for the message.
2.    Make a special effort to understand each other`s perspective.
3.    Pay attention to nonverbal signs - your own and other speakers.
4.    Be an engaged listener.
On an organisational level:
5.    Create a climate of trust and openness
6.    Encourage the use of multiple channels including formal and informal communication
7.    The organisational structure should fit communication needs.
For physical barriers:
8.    Appropriate seating arrangements
9.    Ensure visibility and audibility
10.  Environmental comfort
11.  Minimise visual/ oral distractions
For semantic barriers:
12.  Use of simple language
13.  Use symbols and charts to visualise the message
14.  Active listening/ constructive feedback
For socio-psychological barriers:
15.  Calling attention & motivation
16.  Assistance & sympathy
17.  Managing your emotions
For cross cultural barriers:
18.  Promote an understanding of other traditions and customs
19.  Provide intercultural training
20.  Avoid jokes or sarcasm
21.  Be careful with translation of body language - ask questions if you don`t understand.
Questions for you
Have you ever faced any of mentioned above barriers?
How did you overcome them?
What were the lessons learned? What would you do different next time?

Learn by doing:

1 . Find partner to practice.

2. Within 5 minutes identify 5 social problems that are not solved. Discuss: what is the problem and why it is important? (For example, 1. Lots of food is thrown away in households; 2. Violence at home; 3. Overweight; 4. Millions of people suffering from depression; 5. Unemployment of people with disabilities.).

!NB! Take only 5 minutes, if nescessary put on the timer!

3. Think and talk about the process:
  • Did it go smooth?
  • What were the barriers?
  • How did you overcome them?
  • What kinds of communication did you use?
  • Which were most effective?

Useful resources