Barriers to Communication in the Workplace Part 2

Posted on June 14th, 2017 by G. Riley Mills

In our last post, Barriers to Communication Part One, we highlighted jargon, attention spans and distractions, differences in perception/viewpoint, and physical disabilities, as barriers to communication. In this post, we’ll focus on physical barriers, language differences, and bias.

Physical barriers to non-verbal communication (The environmental and natural conditions that make it difficult to see non-verbal cues, gestures, posture and general body language).

Physical barriers refer to the environment include: walls, pillars, lecterns, conference tables, etc., the physical distance between speaker and audience, and such things as noise, that make communication challenging. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to see and hear you. Therefore, move around the space rather than hide behind a lectern. As you answer questions, take a step toward the person who asked the it to close the distance between you to create intimacy and show you are confident and interested in the question and questioner. Square off your torso and aim your belly button toward them to indicate your attention and interest. Repeat the question in your microphone so others know the question. Check your audio to ensure people in the back of the room can hear you. Test your technology to ensure your presentation bullets are visible.

Language differences and difficulty understanding unfamiliar accents.

Many communicators mistakenly assume that as long as they understand the message they are trying to convey they have done their job as the messenger of that communication. This is not enough—the receiver of information also conveys meaning to a message. The act of listening becomes a circular interaction between the sender and the receiver.

Ask “check back” and/or clarifying questions. Don’t assume a person understands what you said. Ask questions to confirm – Does this make sense? Am I talking too fast? Does this address your concerns?

Watch nonverbal communication. Are nonverbal cues letting you know the information you are presenting is received and understood? Are they authentically smiling or fake smiling?

Ask them to paraphrase what they heard. As you communicate, take opportunities to invite your audience to repeat back to you what they heard in their own words.

Bias or prejudice – Humans often hear what they expect to hear rather than what is actually said and jump to incorrect conclusions.

To address bias, use inclusive language that does not stereotype or demean people based on personal characteristics, including gender, gender expression, race, ethnicity, economic background, ability/disability status, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

Prejudice is particularly tricky because it’s usually irrational. To help address it, use The Pinnacle Method. First, analyze your audience. How do they feel? Second, understand the reactions/changes you want your message to produce. How do you want them to feel? Third, modify your delivery to achieve those reactions. What intention do you need to use to achieve that reaction? Remember, you have to connect with your audience before you can move them.

While communication may seem fairly simple, i.e. we’re humans, we communicate every day, the reality is more complex. In today’s global, technologically connected world, there are several barriers to communication in the workplace that can make it more challenging then ever. That why having an objective in every communication and using a strong intention to ensure your message is clearly communicated is critical.

To learn more about how we can help your team members overcome barriers to communication, please contact us.

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