Barriers to effective communication

A communication barrier is anything that prevents you from receiving and understanding the messages others use to convey their information, ideas and thoughts. These barriers may be related to the message, internal barriers related to thoughts and feelings, or external barriers.

Barriers related to the message include:

  • lengthy or disorganised messages
  • complex or ambiguous language
  • inconsistent body language
  • disregard for specific needs.

Case example

Aaron is a young man with a mild intellectual disability. His new caseworker jumps quickly from topic to topic, using academic expressions and service jargon. Aaron becomes upset and has trouble expressing his thoughts. The worker then tells him to take his time, she is here to help. She keeps looking at the clock and checking her diary. Aaron feels that he must be stupid and slow, and his self-esteem plummets.

Internal barriers include:

  • fatigue
  • disinterest
  • poor listening skills
  • past experiences with the client
  • home or work problems
  • poor listening skills.

Case example

Today you are just not interested in what this young woman has to say. You normally listen to her problems and do what you can to help her, but you are more worried about your son's illness. When you ask her to repeat something, she accuses you of ignoring her. You would love to point out that she never takes your advice anyway.

External barriers include:

  • noise and other distractions
  • unpleasant environment
  • problems with technology or equipment.

Case example

Nicole is having a hard time discussing support options with her client, a victim of domestic violence. The office is cold, cramped and dull, and the way it is set up is not conducive to putting the client at ease. People walking past can look in, and each time there is a noise or other outside distraction the client loses concentration.

These barriers keep the message from getting through. When you are communicating, monitor the actions of the receiver by observing their body language, response to the message, etc. To check that the message has been received as it was intended, ask questions and listen to their response.

Last modified: Monday, 9 September 2013, 3:24 PM