Top 9 Interpersonal Communication Barriers

During the transfer of information from one person to another, there are usually some barriers that may hinder the process of interpersonal communication.

In such cases, the recipient’s perception is usually hinged on either there is the presence or absence of communication barriers during the process of communication. 

In the event of a barrier, the information is usually distorted, loses its original meaning, or may even not reach the recipient at all.

Top on the list of interpersonal communication barriers include the following;

1. Linguistic/language barriers

2. Psychological barriers

3. Emotional barriers

4. Physical barriers

5. Barrier of authority

6. Stereotype barriers

7. Temperament barriers

8. Avoidance barrier

9. Gender Barrier

Besides the glance above, there are other auxiliary factors and consequences of communication barriers you will love to know.

So, pull up a couch and read on while we walk you through the nitty-gritty of some barriers to interpersonal communication.

What are communication barriers?

Communication barriers are the phenomenon that arises in the course of communication between the communicator and the recipient that blocks the accurate transmitting of information. 

They are often referred to as the “invisible wall” that arise between partners and prevents them from understanding or “seeing” each other. They can even be so intense that they sometimes stop a person from understanding their selves. 

Communication barriers are profoundly detrimental to relationships; they have serious long term effects that can sometimes last a generation or lead to an organization’s collapse. 

Interpersonal Communication Barriers

What are the consequences of communication barriers?

  • Increasing the psychological distance between participants in the communication process
  • Changing the nature of interaction in communication
  • A decrease in mutual trust
  • Gradual alienation and, as a result, a complete destruction of the communicative connection.

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7+ Interpersonal communication Barriers 

1.     Linguistic or language Barriers.

Linguistic/Language barriers mostly arise when interacting parties speak different languages. The most typical example is a foreigner’s attempt to communicate with others in a foreign country without knowing the local language.

This type of communication barriers also includes cases when the communicating parties have different levels of language proficiency. 

For example, this happens if one of them has a strong accent or they speak very different dialects of the same language.

The latter option is especially characteristic of the English language, based on which there are many dialects in the world.

One cannot fail to note the language barriers that can arise even between people speaking the same language. 

The fact is that in any language, there are synonymous and polysemantic phrases, and the different shades of meaning in oral speech can express intonation, loudness, etc.

In situations where people are initially not tuned in to mutual understanding, are largely stereotypical, or erroneously perceive another person. 

In this case, they often misunderstand the meaning of what was said. This reinforces differences in the interpretation of what is said and what is perceived. 

To overcome such interpersonal communication barriers, it is necessary to strive for the communication partner’s adequate perception, positivity and goodwill, and a constructive clarification of semantic nuances.

2.     Psychological Barriers.

The psychological barrier is a type of socio-psychological phenomenon that manifests itself as a result of a person’s experience of communication difficulties.

Most often, they are invisible but are negatively perceived by others. Many times, it is a result of a person noticing his/her difference and difficulties in maintaining a conversation compared to other people, leading to the development of complexes.

They also arise if there is a rejection of the form of communication by a member of the communicating party. 

A refined intellectual and a seller from the market are unlikely to be able to communicate successfully for a long time since these people have different levels of socially significant values, ​​and they both belong to different spheres. The attitude towards the interlocutor develops accordingly.

The symptoms of psychological barriers may include:

  • Modality
  • Unwillingness to listen and hear 
  • Fear of contact
  • Projection or translation
  • Waiting for misunderstanding

3.     Emotional Barriers

When we misinterpret or don’t receive any information, really. We attach more importance to our feelings and impressions.

Thus, we miss the real facts and, in general, the meaning of what was said, which makes the interaction process more complicated.

Sometimes we read “bad moods” as an attitude towards us when the attitude may have nothing to do with our behaviors.

For example, a team may perceive the new boss as aggressive or “dry,” when in fact, he or she had difficulties in his family, which is why he was depressed during the first working days. 

Another example is when a friend grows distant and less attentive because of personal issues, but the action is received as unwillingness to continue the relationship. 

Because many people perceive negative emotions at their own expense, simple things like an unfamiliar salesperson’s rudeness can hurt them deeply.

Emotionally negative moods are transferred to the communication partner and reduce all their efforts to connect. 

It is often the bad mood of one of the participants in the interaction that is the source of the conflict. 

This is why it is important to know that bad moods don’t necessarily have anything to do with the receiver. It is best to internally distance oneself from negative emotions and allow the person to calm down, leaving them alone for a while.

Interpersonal Communication Barriers

4.     Physical Barriers

Communication barriers include the external physical environment’s characteristics that create uncomfortable conditions for the transmission and perception of information.

Some of such physical barriers include:

  • Acoustic interference

Noise in the room or outside the window, repair work, slamming doors, a phone ringing, etc. 

Their negative influence is amplified if the room has poor acoustics, and the communicator speaks too quietly or in a whisper;

  • A distracting environment

Bright sun or, conversely, dim light, the color of the room’s walls, the landscape outside the window, paintings, portraits, etc. 

Basically, everything that can divert the attention of the communicators is a distracting environment. 

  • Temperature conditions

If it is too cold or too hot in the room, there will likely be some form of barrier to interpersonal communication.

  • Weather conditions

This includes rain, wind, high or low pressure, etc. that may affect the flow of effective interpersonal communication.

Each of the listed factors can affect the effectiveness of communication due to its influence on the participants’ individual psychophysiological characteristics in the communication process.

Physical barriers can also arise from the inconsistency of the place of communication with its character and objectives. 

It may arise due to the great distance of people from each other, or due to overvoltage resulting from long waiting, inability to regulate your internal state.

5.     The barrier of “authority”

Having divided all people into authoritative and non-authoritative, a person trusts only the first and refuses to trust others. 

Thus, trust and distrust are personified and depend not on the characteristics of the transmitted information, but on who is speaking. For example, the elderly poorly listen to the advice of the young.

A person’s status as an authority figure may depend on the following factors:

  • social position (standing), belonging to a real “authoritative” group.
  • Attractive appearance (whether the hairstyle is neat, whether the suit is ironed, what are the silhouette and colors, whether they are buttoned up, how they are shaved, etc.);
  • A benevolent attitude towards the addressee of the impact (smile, friendliness, ease of use, etc.);
  • Competence (understanding the degree of professionalism of the communication partner);
  • Sincerity, and if the listener trusts the speaker, then he very well perceives and remembers the conclusions and practically ignores the course of reasoning. 
  • If there is less confidence, then he is open to conclusions, but he is very attentive to the arguments and the course of reasoning.

6.     Stereotype Barriers

A stereotype is a simplified, pre-accepted concept that does not follow from one’s own experience. 

In a certain way, these simplifications affect the perception and understanding of the phenomena of the surrounding reality.

The features of the stereotype are as follows:

  • Stereotypes are incorrect generalizations – too broad, exaggerated, or oversimplified;
  • Stereotypes are beliefs common to a certain group of people in society, usually associated with ideas about the socio-psychological or anthropological characteristics of other social groups;
  • Stereotypes, being a system of beliefs and attitudes, adopted in advance, are not formed through social experience;
  • Stereotypes are conveyed through language;
  • Stereotypes are relatively stable and difficult to change.

Usually, these are exaggerated and simplistic estimates, for example, “Ukrainians are greedy”, “the French are loving”, etc. However, they quite strongly influence the perception of information. 

A person has a well-established opinion based on what is unknown, and when communicating, he blindly follows his attitudes and stereotypes. 

It turns out that a person “does not see” the real situation, the real person, but reacts to his idea of ​​this person or this situation.

Stereotypes create barriers to communication in two ways: the meaning of the information can be distorted by the stereotype of the person who is speaking, as well as by the stereotypical thinking of the person who is listening. 

It turns out that people seem to speak different languages.

It is also necessary to consider that stereotypes, which have a pronounced emotional coloring, are very stable and are not well suited to changes.

7.     Temperament barrier

The human being combines the biological and the social without considering the individual and typological characteristics of a person (a partner, a subordinate, and a leader). This can make it quite challenging to interact with the person.

Temperament is called the natural relationship of stable individual personality traits that characterize various aspects of her mental activity dynamics. 

Temperament is the biological foundation of our personality. It is based on the nervous system’s properties, associated with the human constitution, with the metabolism in the body.

The type of temperament is most clearly manifested in a person’s activity and his relations with other people. 

Each person chooses and perceives certain information from a vast spectrum of impressions about the world around him, stopping his attention on some phenomena and not noticing others. 

This individual selectivity concerning the phenomena of the surrounding world and their style of assimilating the information received to create the basis for forming different personalities under the same environmental conditions.

The type of temperament is clearly manifested in a person’s behavior and speech. 

To express the temperament barrier, we can use characteristics such as:

  • Intonation differences, 
  • Duration of utterances, 
  • Frequency of calls to a partner, 
  • Ease of inclusion in a conversation, 
  • Voice volume, and fluency of speech, 
  • Speed of reactions, 
  • The use of pauses, 
  • Interjections, and emotionality 

All these characteristics are easy enough to notice in communication, and by them, it is enough to accurately determine the type of personality temperament.

Conflicts arise where temperaments that are difficult to interact with colliding. 

For example, combine in one project, two choleric people for whom it is imperative to be visible and receive the reference group’s attention. You will most likely get a ready-made conflict. 

The two leaders are unlikely to get along either. That is why team building is such a responsible and challenging business.

The collision of people with different types of temperament can form certain barriers in the way of mutual understanding between people, often leading to a conflict outcome.  

That is why when interacting with people; it is so important to take into account their type of temperament and character structure.

8.     Avoidance barrier

A person avoids uninteresting and even more emotionally negative contacts with the communicator. 

If it is impossible to evade, then he/she makes every effort not to perceive the message (inattentive, does not listen, does not look at the interlocutor, does not use any excuse to end the conversation). 

Sometimes, they avoid sources of information and certain situations (for example, the desire to close their eyes when watching “scary places” from horror films).

Most often, the “avoidance” barrier appears to some degree of inattention. Therefore, only by controlling the interlocutor’s attention and the audience is it possible to overcome this barrier. The main thing is to solve two interrelated problems: to attract attention and keep it. 

The following factors most influence a person’s attention:

  • The relevance and importance of information
  • Its novelty
  • Non-standard presentation
  • Unexpectedness
  • The intensity of information transmission
  • The sonority of the voice
  • Its modulation 

A communicator that is equipped with this information will know how to manipulate the situation, so his/her information is well received.

9. Gender Barrier

The feature image on this post adds a woman punching a man with an angry and powerful jab, and I didn’t just add it as a joke. There are serious issues when it comes to effective interpersonal communication barriers related to gender.

From friendship, work relationships, dating, and marriage, men and women have historically been either not communicating enough or being completely ineffective when doing so.

Men and Women are different in many ways, not just physically but emotionally as well. It’s quite common to have women feel misunderstood by men and vice versa. Understanding and accepting those differences go a long way in improving the communication effectiveness between the two.

References and Further Reading

Drexel University. 6 Barriers to Effective Communication

Skills You Need. Barriers to Effective Communication.

Emidio Amadebai

An avid seeker of knowledge, and passionate about sharing the lessons he picks up in life. Emidio is passionate about public speaking, teaching, and helping others develop critical soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and other interpersonal skills which are in high demand in today's rapidly evolving market.

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