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Barriers to Communication

Inevitably, most businesses (perhaps all) suffer from failures in communication. Poor businesses suffer from persistently poor communications. Perhaps the best way to think about the way in which communication can go wrong is to think about what good communication would be like:

  • It would use appropriate language (e.g. no poor use of jargon; written so that the intended recipient can understand)

  • It would go only to who should receive it – not everyone

  • It would use the right medium to communicate the information

  • The information would get to the recipient in good time for it to be used

Taking the above list, it is easy to produce a list of how communications go wrong:

  • Information is omitted or distorted by the sender

  • Information is misunderstood due to the use of inappropriate jargon or lack of clarity

  • Information is presented using an inappropriate medium (e.g. via email rather than in a proper report, or via telephone when face-to-face is better)

  • Information arrives too late, or incomplete

Barriers to good communication

Research suggests that, amongst the many reasons why information fails to be communicated, the following are the main barriers:

Different status of the sender and the receiver (e.g. a senior manager sends a memo to a production supervisor – who is likely to pay close attention to the message. The same information, conveyed in the opposite direction might not get the attention is deserves)

Use of jargon – employees who arte “specialists” ,ay fall for the trap of using specialists language for a non-specialist audience (e.g. the IT technician who cannot tries to explain how users should log onto a network, in language that sounds foreign to most users of the network)

Selective reporting – information that is not immediately relevant (e.g. notice of some deadline that seems a long way off) is not always actioned straightway

Conflict – where the communicator and recipient are in conflict; information tends to be ignored or distorted


Overcoming Barriers to Communication

Talking : Be honest about your own thoughts, conscious and feelings. When is doubt, ask questions

  • How is that for you?

  • How do you feel right now?

  • Can you tell me more about that?

  • Am I intruding?

  • What do you need?

  • What are the ways you can take care of yourself?

When you are responding to a person facing crises, rather than use statements such as “You should” or “That’s wrong”, say:

  • I feel…

  • I believe…

  • I would want…

An example of talking with a sick person:

“What you’re going through sounds awful”: and let her know you can listen: “I would love to hear how you’re really doing.”

In asking the hard questions, of course, you or family must be willing to hear hard answers. Think about what you will do or say is she responds to your interest by openly confiding her darkest fears and fathomless sorrow. Sometimes what people need most is for someone they love to simply listen.

Irs Byock, M.D. [ ], notes that a valuable strategy for discussing these intimate and poignant subjects with your sister or other family members is to use “I” statements, framing what you say in terms of what you are feeling. In talking with your other siblings or parents, avoid statements that sound as if you are telling others what they should be thinking, feeling or saying (“We can all see Sherrie is getting sicker and we need to talk about her dying.”). By sticking to “I” statements you can avoid intruding on your family’s emotional space while saying the things that need to be said and that may, inevitable, provoke uncomfortable feelings in others. In talking privately with your other and brother, for instance, you might ay, “Sherrie looks weaker to me. I am worried about her.” In this way you can open up the discussion without imposing an agenda. Similarly, in talking with you sister, it is almost always OK to tell her how you feel. “Sherrie, I love you so much, and I’m scared of losing you,” is a very direct statement that, nevertheless, respects personal boundaries.

Words To Try : Joanne Lynn, M.D. [ ], suggests the following words to try when talking with people who are seriously ill. This table is taken from Lynn’s The Handbook For Mortals:


Good listening skills air communication. Listening skills can be valuable to you and to your loved ones. By using non-judgmental invitations to talk, you open doors to meaningful conversation. Some good phrases are:

  • Let’s discuss it.

  • Would you like to talk about it?

  • Tell me about it.

  • I’d like to hear about it.

  • Tell me the whole story.

  • It sounds like you’ve got something to say about this.

  • This seems important to you.

  • I’m interested in your point of view.

As a person talks, you can keep encouraging them with phrases such as:

  • I see.

  • You did?

  • Mm hmm.

  • Oh, really?

  • Interesting.

  • You don’t say.

Listening is giving you full attention to the person talking, and accepting what that person says. Listening is not:

  • ordering of directing

  • warning or threatening

  • moralizing or preaching

  • advising, giving solutions or suggestions

  • lecturing, teaching or giving logical arguments

  • judging, criticizing, disagreeing or blaming

  • praising or agreeing

  • name-calling, ridiculing, shaming

  • interpreting, analyzing or diagnosing

  • reassuring, sympathizing, consoling or supporting

  • probing, questioning or interrogating

  • withdrawing, distracting, humoring or diverting the speaker

Thank You...

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