Sometimes it can be challenging to put my phone away when I’m spending time with friends. We all know how addicting social media can be, but it doesn’t make it any less rude to the person sitting across from me telling me about a problem they’re facing. Even saying, “I’m just replying to this email, but I swear I’m listening,” is a barrier to effective communication.
There have been times when, even without my phone, I realize I’m only half-listening to someone. It’s a distracting world, and sometimes it can be hard to compartmentalize all the things on your mental to-do list and just be present. But, that doesn’t justify listening with one ear. Is sending a perfectly timed gif as a response to a text really worth losing a friendship over? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Everyone talks, but very few of us listen to understand.
An inability to fully grasp what someone is telling us hinders productive and successful communication even when we’re paying attention. Aside from all the distractions and confusion the world, in general, presents us with, we still have differences that make it challenging to hear someone and understand them.
In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to work with someone to understand their point of view. It doesn’t mean we have to agree, but we should give the same respect we want when seeking a meaningful discussion. With more arguments than ever over gender and culture, how do we improve ourselves?
Voicing an opinion can sometimes feel like walking on eggshells. You don’t want to risk losing a friendship or relationship because you couldn’t see eye-to-eye, but knowing what barriers you may inadvertently be creating is important.
These are the six most common barriers we face in communication:
Even if you are the ideal friend, when it comes to leaving your phone behind and being fully present when someone needs you, you’re not immune to communication barriers. I don’t just mean the common language barrier though it’s certainly a valid one. In fact, there is a whole list of barriers that prevent us from communicating concisely. The following is a list of 6 barriers we should all make a point to focus on for effective communication:
Perceptual barriers: different viewpoints, bias and stereotypes
Perceptual barriers are internal. If you go into a situation thinking the person you are talking to isn’t going to understand or take interest in what you have to say, you may end up subconsciously sabotaging your effort to make your point. You will employ language that is sarcastic, dismissive, or even obtuse, thereby alienating your conversational partner.
Attitudinal barriers: lack of interest or relevance
Attitudinal barriers to communication may result from personality conflicts, poor management, resistance to change, or a lack of motivation. Effective receivers of messages should attempt to overcome their own attitudinal barriers to facilitate effective communication.
Attitudes are usually formed by an individual’s opinion and can be difficult to change. When this barrier overrides the focus on professionalism in the workplace, it can be next to impossible to work together.
This barrier is not an easy one to break down. It’s important to be aware of your attitude, and try to understand the root of it. It will be a slow-going process, but allowing yourself to change your attitude will be worth it in the end.
Language barriers: jargon and word choice
Even when communicating in the same language, the terminology used may act as a barrier if not fully understood by the receiver. 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.
Aim to translate all relevent documents, use an interpreter when necessary, talk to your company about providing language classes and try to se visual methods of communication as often as possible.
Emotional barriers: bottling emotions out of refusal to express emotion
We are often taught to fear the words coming out of our mouths, as in the phrase “anything you say can and will be used against you.” Overcoming this fear is difficult, but necessary. The trick is having full confidence in what you are saying and your qualifications in saying it. People often pick up on insecurity.
By believing in yourself and what you have to say, you will be able to communicate clearly without becoming overly involved in your emotions.
Cultural barriers: values and beliefs.
Different cultures, whether they be a geographical culture or simply the work culture of a company, can hinder developed communication. Specifically, if the two cultures clash. There are even subtypes of cultural barriers such as generational and status.
Generational barriers involve different age groups having different approaches to work, which leads to conflicts when older workers think younger workers are slackers. It is especially prevalent today with the negative view of “millennials.”
Status barriers are about people acclimating to workplaces where seniority and status are emphasized. Often they have difficulty adapting to fluid work environments where job titles are not emphasized, and production methods do not always follow a predetermined set of guidelines.
In these cases, it’s important to find common ground.
Gender barriers: different experiences of men and women
Even where men and women share equal stature, knowledge, and experience, differing communication styles may prevent them from working together effectively. Gender barriers are inherent and related to gender stereotypes, or the ways that men and women are taught to behave as children.
To overcome gender barriers within the workplace, educate your team about gender bias. Bias is often embedded in stereotypes and can be hard to detect. Once found, there are possibilities for change.
It is also important to create safe “Identity Workspaces.” Companies should encourage women to build communities in which similarly positioned women can discuss their feedback, compare notes and emotionally support one another’s learning. Support will prevent feeling vulnerable and help women want to share willingly without fear of judgment.
Let’s take a look at a real life example…
In the U.S., 2016 was an election year. This meant, as a nation, we were faced with trying to overcome all six of these barriers on a daily basis, especially since the two main candidates where opposing genders.
The unfunny joke here is that each barrier has a snowball affect.
Think about it: the frustration resulting from struggling with one barrier is enough to create a solid attitudinal barrier once you’ve decided you don’t care what anyone else has to say.
Once you’ve created an attitudinal barrier and stopped caring what someone has to say, you, in turn, cause a perceptual barrier and potentially a cultural barrier. You’ve just stereotyped yourself into a state of mind that is too self-centered and prejudice to listen to what anyone has to say if it doesn’t directly line up with what you think.
If the person you’re refusing to listen to happens to be a different gender than you, you’ve just built a divisive gender barrier wall. It trickles down and gets worse depending on the situation.
As a result, you’re left with people who have given up on trying to speak to you. This will lead to a language barrier with the frustrated party using sarcasm and other linguistic techniques to get out of the conversation.
All of this can lead to emotional barriers as you or the other party may feel that what you said should have been kept to yourself.
The first step to overcoming communication barriers is to recognize the barriers you have.
We are all guilty of creating barriers. Even if you never text at dinner or engage in political conversations. If you’re being honest with yourself, you can come up with an example of one of the six barriers and how it affected a relationship negatively.
Communication is not easy, and this article is not out to lie about that. Communication is also not a one-way street. It takes work, real effort, to effectively communicate with someone, no matter what the topic.
Try to recognize when the six barriers creep into your day-to-day conversations. It’s important to reflect and understand what triggered the barriers. Did your loved one say something you didn’t agree with? Did you scoff because you found it sexist or hurtful to your personal beliefs?
Rather than putting up a barrier, communicate how it made you feel. And don’t be afraid to use “I” statements. For example, if someone makes a joke that is hurtful to you culturally, tell that person, “I know you’re making a joke, but I feel hurt when you say those things because I am a part of that culture and I feel like you’re laughing at me.”
It doesn’t ensure the person will suddenly turn around and apologize for their ways, but it is a step in the right direction. Guaranteed the next time they go to make a joke like that, they’ll at least hesitate and remember how their words made you feel.
Communication and overcoming the barriers that can get in its way is all about confidence in knowing that your opinion matters, but everyone else thinks their opinion matters, too. Don’t attack someone for an opposing view, but don’t walk away from the conversation either. Break down a new barrier every day, and always be a part of the conversation.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io