Communication is something that we all struggle with from time to time. Even the most eloquent of leaders hit road blocks. What matters is how we work past these barriers to effective communication. A first step in effective communication is to recognize what these hurdles are so we can better formulate plans to effectively handle situations in which something is not communicated in the most efficient of manners. 

Barrier 1: Selective Perception – Since communication is an interpretive process, receivers may selectively omit information based upon their needs, motivations, experience, background, and other personal characteristics.  Receivers also may project their interests and expectations into communications as they decode them. Do not allow your assumptions and perceptions to cloud your interpretations and don’t assume anything that could become validated by asking questions and obtaining feedback from the sender.

Barrier 2: Filtering – Filtering is the process by which a sender manipulates information to make it look good to the receiver.  In other words, telling the receiver what the sender thinks the receiver wants to hear. Another filtering method is providing the information so as to get the answer desired by the sender. You can prevent receiving filtered information by asking pertinent questions. Put on the investigator’s hat and strive to obtain the who, what, why, when, where answers.

Barrier 3: Emotions – Our emotional states and our cognitive systems are inseparable, they interact constantly. How a receiver feels at the time of a communication will influence how he or she interprets the message. If either the sender or receiver is in a state of extreme emotion (anger, sadness, etc.), postpone the communication until both parties are able to objectively interpret the message.

Barrier 4: Language – Different words have different meanings for different people. This communication barrier can become even more confusing when strange or seldom-used words are employed in a message. Use simplified sentence structure and as many single syllable words as possible. Technical jargon will create immediate misunderstanding.

These four common barriers to effective communication are hurdles that we have all been faced with, either as the receiver or the sender. Being able to recognize these factors, and being willing to work around them so conflict does not occur, is a great first step in ensuring successful and productive conversation takes place, ideally decreasing the likelihood of stress and conflict in the workplace.