Career Development

Everyday Communication Barriers and How to Overcome Them

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There are many communication barriers that can happen at work and during your career. The best way to overcome these normal and everyday communication barriers is to recognize and actively address them. This article will identify different types of everyday communication barriers at work and how you can overcome them with examples.

What are communication barriers?

A communication barrier is anything that limits communication or makes a message unclear. Communication barriers can impact in-person conversations, phone calls or emails. In some scenarios, listeners may find it challenging to understand the speaker’s message. Speakers can also encounter obstacles while conveying information that makes the message unclear. 

Understanding communication barriers can help you identify and solve them in the workplace. Sometimes, you may be able to avoid potential communication barriers altogether. 

Overcoming everyday communication barriers is an essential professional skill. It can help you communicate more effectively and avoid misunderstandings. It’s important to be able to identify communication barriers and their effects in order to overcome them.  

How to overcome everyday communication barriers at work

Follow these steps to overcome everyday communication barriers at work:

1. First, use straightforward language when working with others 

Communication barriers can be caused by people speaking multiple languages or dialects, accents and cultural phrases and industry vocabulary or jargon. You can overcome these language challenges by using straightforward language that avoids slang, idioms and jargon when speaking with others. 

2. Secondly, use nonverbal cues to help you communicate clearly

Nonverbal cues can be useful to communicate with other people when you may not share the same language or cultural background. Nodding, eye contact and other physical cues can be helpful when speaking and working with other people. 

3. Third, share relevant information with your team

Organizational structure barriers happen when people in different departments or roles don’t have access to the same information. There could be a lack of information about a role or task. Sometimes, employees may not have as much or as recent information as their managers or leaders.

If you are a manager, it is important to make sure your team has the most recent information so they can successfully complete tasks. Once a policy changes or your employer implements a new rule, make an announcement to your team in-person or by email. Ask them to respond so you know they received the message and understand. 

4. Fourth, keep your message concise

Communication problems can be caused by sharing unnecessary and confusing information. The speaker may want to add context to their message to clarify it, but that might make it more complicated instead. An information barrier could also occur when the speaker provides too many instructions all at once. 

When communicating, keep your message simple and clear. You can always answer questions if anyone needs additional information. 

5. Fifth, use different ways of communicating 

People communicate differently depending on their strengths and skills. If you’re having trouble communicating with people at work, try to use a different way of sharing information with them. For example, if you have trouble getting messages to your manager through email, talk to them about finding an alternative process, like texting or instant messaging. 

6. Sixth, try to create distance when communicating ideas 

There is nothing wrong with sharing or feeling emotions at work, but expressing emotions and information at the same time can be challenging to understand for some people. If you find that you’re not able to communicate with people at work for this reason, try to create distance between yourself and the information. For example, email can be less emotional and personal than phone conversations. 

Everyday communication barrier examples

Here are examples of common communication barriers in the workplace:

Organizational barrier example: 

Maria is a new accountant at an international bank. According to her online training, she needs to file all paperwork alphabetically by the customer’s first name. After a week of filing paperwork, her supervisor, Ken, tells her that the company policy is to sort by the client’s last name. Maria explains the online training to Ken to seek clarification. Ken realizes that the company created the training courses before they changed the filing policy. 

He apologizes to Maria for the mistake and asks her to start filing by last name. After the discussion, he emails a human resources representative, who quickly changes the course for new hires. 

In this example, Maria received outdated information about a policy that upper management made. They emailed existing employees about the rule, but after Maria’s feedback, they realized that they also needed to update their training information.

Physiological barrier example: 

Adam works at a plastics manufacturing company. His manager, Leah, comes to his workspace to discuss the progress of a project. Because it’s the busiest time in the afternoon, the warehouse is noisy. Adam can’t hear her, so he asks her to repeat the information.  

Instead of trying to continue the conversation where they might experience a challenge hearing each other, Leah sends an email instead. Later, she meets with Adam when the warehouse is quieter so they can finalize the project steps.

In this example, Adam couldn’t hear important information because the warehouse was noisy. Leah used another form of communication and followed up personally with Adam later.