How to Break the Barriers to Effective Communication
written by: Jean Scheid
• edited by: Laurie Patsalides
• updated: 1/12/2013
You’re most likely proud of your communication plan, especially if you’re a top manager. What some top managers miss however, are the barriers to effective communication. To break those barriers, they must first be identified. Jean Scheid offers tips on making communication flow better.
You may have read, researched, and thought out your communication plan and to you, it’s just perfect. Everyone knows where and how to access important information, who they should go to with suggestions, clarification or questions, and where the complaint jar is placed. Even if your plan is a written plan that you’re sure everyone has read and understood, it doesn’t mean you don’t have barriers to effective communication within your team, department or organization.
Really, you might say! But I’ve received top expert advice and hired a communication expert to not only help me write my plan but to see it in action. Most likely, any communication plan will do the job for a week or two, but the barriers that arise after that are often unforeseen and aren’t planned for.
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Understanding Communication Barriers
Before you throw away your communication plan, especially if you are experiencing problems, you can fix it, if you identify the blocks or barriers within your current plan. Some typical examples include:
Generational Barriers – You can bet you have some of these, especially if you have a diverse workforce. You must learn to deal with and understand the communication styles of different generations first, and then apply what you’ve learned so everyone can communicate on the same level, or at least a level of acceptance through different generational gaps.
It’s Not My Job – This communication barrier is seen more and more in today’s workforce. Many workers, especially the unmotivated worker, really doesn’t care if he or she sees something is awry and needs communication to fix it. To them, it really isn’t their job to fix it so the attitude of letting someone else repair the problem doesn’t fall within their job description. If this is your problem, you need to find a way to ensure that everyone on your team or within your organization feels they play an important role and this assurance must be backed up by your praise and guidance.
Where Does He Work? – Physical barriers are another common reason people don’t communicate effectively. If office spaces are designed so it’s difficult to find a co-worker or even reach them through ineffective or out-of-date technology, you will have abundant communication barriers. Often, it’s impossible to redesign the workplace to sway the communication barrier, but if you’re technology is lacking, you can fix that.
Lost in Translation – According to Alliance Training & Consulting, “Social psychologists estimate that there is usually a 40-60% loss of meaning in the transmission of messages from sender to receiver," and “People in organizations typically spend over 75% of their time in an interpersonal situation." That’s a lot of percentage time wasted so you need to learn how to break the barriers of effective communication. Why is the message or meaning getting lost in the translation? Beyond your generational issues, do you have cultural diversity that you haven’t conquered or even tried to effectively mesh within your organization? If so, look at some of your failed translations to determine where the problem lies.
I’m Afraid of the Boss – This is my favorite barrier to effective communication because it’s so true in so many offices and it shouldn’t be. If no one is communicating, perhaps you need to consider your management or leadership style. If you’re unapproachable, you shouldn’t expect communication to flow well. If this is you, it’s time to take a leadership seminar because you need to change.
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Help for Communication Plans
George Bernard Shaw once said, “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred." How relevant this quote is, and one that should be thought of often when looking at communication barriers. If your communication plan seems to be going nowhere fast, there are affordable places that offer both onsite and offsite ways to improve communication at all levels.
There are two seminar companies that I utilize often to help with not just communication issues, but other workplace issues as well.
National Training Seminars - This Company offers a wide variety of courses including effective communication. They offer both onsite and web and video courses as well as offsite seminars.
Skillpath – You’ve probably tossed a dozen seminar offerings from Skillpath instead of really looking at what they have to offer. This company offers affordable seminars both on and offsite and discounts for groups.
You can end your barriers to effective communication if you jump on them quickly and don’t let them fester. Once you’ve determined the problem and obtained some communication training, revisit your communication plan and make the necessary changes.