BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATION
In the earlier paragraph, we have discussed the various media of communication available to us - oral, written visual, audio-visual, computer-based, etc. While a properly chosen medium can add to the effectiveness of communication, an unsuitable medium may act as a barrier to it. Each communication must be transmitted through an appropriate medium. An unsuitable medium is one of the biggest barriers to communication. In addition, some of the barriers of communications are as follows:
Noise: Noise is quite often a barrier to communication. In factories, oral communication is rendered difficult by the loud noise of machines. Electronic noise like blaring often interferes in communication by telephone or loudspeaker system. The word noise is also use to refer to all kids of physical interference like illegible handwriting, smudged typescript, poor telephone connections, etc.
Time and Distance: Time and distance also act as barriers to the smooth flow of communication. The use of telephone along with computer technology has made communication very fast and has; to a large extent overcome the space barrier. However, sometimes mechanical breakdowns render these facilities ineffective. In such cases, the distance between the transmitter and the receiver becomes a mighty barrier. Some factories run in shifts. There is a kind of communication gap between persons working in different shifts. Faulty seating arrangement in the room can also become a barrier to effective communication, for whichever seats the employees may be occupying; they definitely want an eye contact with one another.
Interpretation of words: Most of the communication is carried on through words, whether spoken or written. But words are capable of communicating a variety of meanings. It is quite possible that the receiver of a message does not assign the same meaning to a word as the transmitter had intended. This may lead to miscommunication.
Bypassed instruction: Bypassing is said to have occurred if the sender and the receiver of the message attribute different meanings to the same word or use different words for the same meaning. Murphy and Pack have given a classic example of how bypassed instructions can play havoc with the communication process: An office manager handed to a new assistant one letter with the instruction. “Take it to our stockroom and burn it”. In the office manager's mind (and in the firm's jargon) the word ''burn'' meant to make a copy on a company machine which operated by a heat process. As the letter was extremely important, she wanted an extra copy. However, the puzzled new employee, afraid to ask questions, burned the letter with a lighted match and thus destroyed the only existing copy.
Attitudes and opinions: Personal attitudes and opinions often act as barriers to effective communication. If information agrees with our opinions and attitudes, we tend to receive it favourably. It fits comfortably in the filter of our mind. But if information disagrees with-our views or tends to run contrary to our accepted beliefs, we do not react favourably. If a change in the policy of an organisation proves advantageous to an employee, he welcomes it as good; if it affects him adversely, he rejects it as the whim of the Director.
Emotions: Emotional states of mind play an important role in the act of communication. If the sender is perplexed, worried, excited, afraid, nervous, his thinking will be blurred and he will not be able to organise his message properly. The state of his mind is sure to be reflected in his message. It is a matter of common observation that people caught in a moment of fury succeed only in violent gesticulation. If they try to speak, they falter and keep on repeating the same words. In the same way, the emotions of the receiver also affect the communication process. If he is angry, he will not take the message in proper light. It is extremely important that emotions are not allowed impede the smooth flow of communication. The communicator should not try to communicate while in a state of emotional excitement. He should first cool down. In the same way, the receiver should not react to the message if his mind is perturbed.
Closed mind: A person with a closed mind is very difficult to communicate with. He is a man with deeply ingrained prejudices. And he is not prepared' to reconsider his opinions. If closed-minded people can be encouraged to state their reasons for rejecting a message or a proposal, they may reveal deep-rooted, prejudices, opinions and emotions. Perhaps, one can make an attempt to counteract those prejudices, opinions, etc. But if they react only with anger and give a sharp rebuff to anyone who tries to argue with them, they preclude all possibility of communication.
Status-consciousness: Status consciousness exists in every organisation and is one of the major barriers to effective communication. Subordinates are afraid of communicating upward any unpleasant information. They are either too conscious of their inferior status or too afraid of being snubbed. Status-conscious superiors think that consulting their juniors would be compromising their dignity. Status-consciousness proves to be a very serious barrier to face-to-face communication. The subordinate feels jittery and nervous, fidgets about where he is standing, falters in his speech and fails in communicating what exactly he wanted to say. The officer, on the other hand, reveals impatience and starts giving comments or advice before he has fully heard his subordinate. Consequently, there is a total failure of communication; the subordinate returns to his seat dissatisfied and simmering inside, while the officer resumes his work with the feeling that his employees have no consideration for the value of his time and keep on pestering him for nothing. Such communication failures can be averted if the managers and other persons in authority rise above the consciousness of their status and encourage their employees to talk freely.
The source of communication: If the receiver has a suspicion about or prejudice against the source of communication, there is likely to be a barrier of communication. People often tend to react more according to their attitude to the source of facts than to the facts themselves. Think of an executive in the habit of finding fault with his employees. If once in a while he begins with a compliment, the employees immediately become suspicious and start attributing motives to the compliment. If a statement emanates from the grapevine, the manager will not give credence to it, but the same state coming from a trusted supervisor will immediately be believed.
Inattentiveness: People often become inattentive while receiving a message, in particular, if the message contains a new idea. The adult human mind usually resists change, for change makes things uncertain. It also threatens security and stability. So the moment a new idea is presented to them, they unconsciously become inattentive. Sometimes a person becomes inattentive because of some distraction. It is possible that an employee does not listen to the supervisor's instructions attentively because he is being distracted by the lady typist who has chosen exactly this moment to repair her make-up, or because he is feeling amused at the supervisor's artificial accent and finds it difficult to concentrate on his words. Sometimes when the listener has received a part of the message, his
.mind gets busy in framing a reply to it, or in guessing the next part of the message. It is quite likely that in thinking of what has been said or that might be said later, the listener misses a part of what is actually being said at the present moment.
Faulty transmission: A message is never communicated from one person to another in its entirety. This is true in particular of oral messages. If a decision has been taken by the Board of Directors, it must be in the form of a lengthy resolution. This resolution cannot be passed on to the factory workers in the same form. It has to be translated in simple language so that they may easily understand it. But translation can never be perfect. In the process of interpretation, simplification and translation, a part of the message gets lost or distorted. A scientific study of the communication process has revealed that successive transmissions of the same message are decreasingly accurate. In oral communications, something in the order of 30 per cent of the information is lost in each transmission.
Poor retention: Poor retention of communication also acts as a barrier. Studies show that employees retain only about 50 per cent of the information communicated to them. The rest is lost. Thus if information is communicated through three or four stages, very little reaches the destination, and of that very little also only a fraction is likely to be retained poor retention may lead to imperfect responses, which may further hamper the communication process.
Unsolicited communication: Unsolicited communication has to face stronger barriers than solicited communication. If I seek advice, it should be presumed that I will listen to it. But if a sales letter comes to me unsolicited, it is not very sure that I will pay much attention to it.