The Great Barrier of Communication

You might speak for a minute or one to two hours, yet in the end you find that your audiences don’t understand the word you just said. Do you have a bad communication skill or your audiences are just dumb? Lots of you must have felt the expression above. From my personal experience, the fault is neither in the speaker nor the audiences. The fault lies in the process. It is called The Great Barrier of Communication.

The results of communication’s barrier are miscommunication, undelivered messages, and meaning diminution. The barrier itself is an integral part of communication process, it can be found both on verbal and non-verbal communication.

There are several reasons why either verbal or non-verbal communication becomes ineffective.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is a communication conveyed through words. The example of verbal communication are speech, lecture, meeting, chants, and so on. Verbal communication is used by the majority of human population as the main method to deliver a message. The barrier of verbal communication can be divided into 4 points:

  • What has been said, can’t be heard

The first phase of verbal communication process is to deliver a message in words to the audiences. However, what has been said, isn’t always been heard by the audiences. There are several reasons why it happen.

  1. Holding communication in the middle of busy environment is not effective. The message may be cut off by the noisy sound of engines, people’s shouting, explosions, etc..
  2. The audiences’ lack of concentration will affect their ability to perceive what has been said by the speaker. This can happen if the audiences’ focus are side-tracked by the background noises or simply their mind goes off wandering.
  3. Communication through media such as telephone, microphone, video conference, radio, or television are susceptible to distortion in the transmission process. Especially where the network is still weak. The message sent and received may be incomplete.
  4. Some health problems that affect mental state,concentration, and hearing is another point of verbal communication’s barrier. Elderly and hyperactive children may need special attention. Raise your voice or get their attention while holding communication, or else they might not hear what you say.

Solution: Hold communications in the proper place. Usually inside a room, the silent atmosphere will make each communicator able to focus their mind into the communication process.

  • What has been heard, can’t be understood

Hearing something doesn’t mean your audiences will understand what it means. It is closely related to the education level and technical knowledge your audiences have about the topic. Know your audiences more before holding a communication.

  1. Using an exclusive word (words with meaning only known to some people) or uncommon word toward wrong audiences is a perfect example of how they heard what you said, but don’t understand the meaning. Difference in language and culture may also pose a barrier between communicators.
  2. Different knowledge over word meaning. Ex: For me a cup is a container that is used for drinking no matter the size and its form, while for you a cup is a container that is used for drinking which has a handle and small in size. Although this looks insignificant, the meaning perceived by each other is different, thus leading to the miscommunication.
  3. Even a simple sentences can lead to ambiguousness, depends on the word structures and audiences understanding. Make sure you have a clear spelling and correct verbal punctuations so the audiences can hear clearly and understood the true meaning.

Solution: Know your audience well. Check their background first (education, family, career, age, country, culture, etc) so you can hold the communication effectively. Use a translator or professional spokesman if a situation demands it.

  • What has been understood, can’t be accepted

This is a matter of mental states. When your audiences are filled with distrust, rage, or anxiety towards the topic, yourself, your organization, or your products, all the words coming from you will meet a thick wall of self-protection. They will reject everything you said no matter how good you deliver the message. They might don’t like the idea of standing on the wrong side all this time.

To sum it up, there are 3 factors why they can’t accept your words:

  1. Distrust over other party
  2. Their feelings about the topic
  3. Their past experience about you or your products

Solution: Build a good relationship and reputation towards other people and your own audience. The success of communication depends on the feeling each communicator has.

  • Physical Factors

People think about physical appearance a lot. A speaker with presentable appearance has more chance of getting audiences’ attention instead of a shabby looking speaker.

Audiences’ past experience with specific people also hold responsibility over the success of communication process.

Ex: Those who have traumatic experiences with “men wearing glasses” might make a judgment that all “men wearing glasses” can’t be trusted. It is because human sometimes think that “one part represent a whole”. A very shallow paradigm.

Solution: Dress up properly depending on the communication’s intention. If your communication is business oriented, you should dress up like a businessman. Mind your attitude in front of your audiences.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is a communication conveyed through other methods aside from verbally. The examples of non-verbal communication are journal, diary, letter, newspaper, sign language, morse code, smoke sign, and so on. Like verbal communication, non verbal communication also has barriers that will hinder the true meaning of the message from the audiences, such as:

  1. Usage of complicated words, image, and code that can only be understood by yourself or some people.
  2. Usage of imperfect grammar, misspelling, and wrong expression on the word structures might confuse some people to perceive the meaning.
  3. Different words understanding or ambiguous.
  4. The words size is too small. Normally, people eyesight is not designed to read something so small. The strain from doing so will affects reader eyesight badly in a long term.
  5. Different knowledge of sentences structure. Ex: English use Subject-Predicate-Object structure, while korean use Subject-Object-Predicate. Raw translation to each other will confuse the true meaning.

By knowing what communication’s barrier are, hopefully you can deliver your message perfectly to the audiences.

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