Communication barriers get in the way of effective delivery and receipt of messages. Personal communication barriers include life experiences and emotions that impede your ability to communicate well. Physical barriers are distractions in the environment. Semantics barriers result from language and word use differences. Each category of filters includes several specific factors that impede useful communication.
Personal Sender Barriers
Message senders often have experiences, feelings or personal prejudices that impact communication. The College of Marin website indicates insufficient subject matter knowledge is a primary personal barrier to effective message delivery. When you try to talk about something you don't know very well, it is difficult for a listener to fully comprehend your meaning. Emotions also get in the way. When you are sad, angry or frustrated, for instance, you may say things you otherwise wouldn't. Your emotions can also distract the listener from your words. If you are angry and say something like, "You never listen to me," the listener may become defensive, which negatively affects clarity.
Personal Receiver Barriers
Listeners are also affected by personal filters. Emotional interference gets in the way of your ability to receive and understand a message, for instance. A feeling of anger toward someone makes it difficult to listen objectively to a message. Sadness may cause you to ignore consoling messages. Culture is another barrier. Even with clear language, a listener may interpret the meaning of a message out of context. Listeners also struggle with information overload, which occurs when a sender presents too many thoughts in a short period of time. Rather than catching all of the message, the overwhelmed listener may not retain any of it. Prejudice against a speaker can also impact message reception.
In some cases, you can control your physical environment, such as by taking a colleague into a meeting room. Other times, you must communicate in the midst of distractions. Background noise is a common and disturbing physical communication barrier. Loud or piercing noises make it difficult to hear, and may contribute to miscommunication. Bad lighting, which blocks nonverbal gestures, limits the ability of a receiver to interpret a message. Other people or distracting images in the environment can affect message delivery or receipt as well. Static on a phone line affects telephone conversations. Poor grammar, spelling or word choices in an e-mail impact electronic communication.
Semantic barriers result when a speaker chooses words or makes statements that aren't easily interpreted by the listener. If you say, "Let's go clubbing tonight," a new friend may not know exactly what you mean. One person may interpret this message as going to a club to hang out. Another may interpret it to mean traveling around to multiple clubs. Profanity or vulgar language can distract an offended listener from the message. Unclear use of words is a semantic barrier as well. Someone might say, "Johnny is a loser," to convey that Johnny often loses at games, while a listener might interpret this message as meaning Johnny is lazy or has negative personal qualities.