Updated: Feb 12
There are many barriers to communication. These range from physical barriers such as time and space to personal barriers like culture and religion. If we are to have any chance at improving communication and our understanding of each other, we need to work on removing these walls between us. The first step is knowing an understanding these barriers. Then we can start to find ways of removing and going around them. Below is an overview of the types of barriers out there divided into 5 categories starting with the letter P: Physical, Physiological, Psychological, Personal, and Personality.
Physical barriers are things like technology, geography, and organization. These are barriers that are physically or structurally prohibitive to communication. They are typically outside of our immediate domain to control as an individual.
Technology has removed many of these barriers by allowing us to talk, send photos, and use video at vast distances. There are many tools available to help us communicate. However, there are still issues with technology. Many of us have experienced the annoyances: internet cutting out, static sounding phone calls, lost signals in the mountains. In some ways, the technology has taken us backward. Some worry that younger generations may be losing some of the skills needed to interpret body language and tone of voice as text seems to be the primary form of communication these days.
The main geographical barrier is that concerning different time zones. You send an email half way around the world and it can take a day to get one back. Organizing meetings with others around the world is a challenge. Who wants to call into an office meeting during the middle of their dinner time or sleep?
Organizational barriers may keep one person from communicating with another. Some organizations discourage communication outside of the prescribed chain of command. Companies need to watch out for this and ensure they are not stifling important conversations and messages.
These are barriers related to our the functions of our bodies and includes things like: eyesight, hearing, dialect, tone of voice, etc. The most obvious example might be someone who has deafness and needs sign language to communicate. A less obvious example might be someone who speaks with a certain dialect.
In each of these cases, we try to find ways to overcome the obstacles. For example, we might use braille, voice coaching, or lip reading. The important thing to remember is that not all of us have the same abilities and we should do our best to accommodate those that may need it. Each of us at some point in our lives will need a little help to communicate because of physical challenges.
Many times there are psychological elements that can make communication difficult. The main ones are emotion, cognitive, and personality.
Emotion is important to consider when speaking or listening to someone (or even watching a video or reading something). Many times emotions hijack our brain and do not allow us to correctly process the information being given or received. We say things we regret when we are angry or scared. We are more receptive to ne ideas when we are in a good mood. Being aware of our own emotions can help us to think about what we say before we say it. Being aware of other's emotions allows us to better know the context in what they are saying and perhaps be more forgiving of the words being used.
Each of us have a different set of cognitive skills. Some might be more creative, some better at memorization, and some better at decision making. Each of these skills can have an effect on how we communicate. Others may have a cognitive disability which might make communication more difficult.
Personal barriers are probably the ones that cause the most trouble. And there are many of them: culture, beliefs, age, gender, race, nationality, bias, religion, experiences, preferences, etc. All of these can be an issue for communication by themselves. Wars are fought, marriages have been ruined, and lives will be destroyed all because of personal differences.
The only way to overcome these is for each of us to have a better understanding. We need to be curious and learn as much as we can about each other. Once you start to understand another person's point of view, you start to realize that your way is not the only way. This is what makes life interesting and fun. Imagine if we were all the same and how boring that would be.
Personality is defined as the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual's distinctive character. Therefore, it might be argued that personality includes all of the above areas. However, there are certain aspects that are difficult to describe by their parts alone.
That being said, we can all appreciate the fact that our personalities definitely can be a barrier to communication. For example, one person might have a dominant style where they like to be in charge and take risks. Another person might have a more cautious style where they are more reserved and like things to be controlled. You can imagine that they might have difficulty agreeing on a path forward based on their preferences.
There are many different types of personality assessments out there that can help you to realize your personality and understand others. This can be very useful as long as you put into practice what you have learned.