In this article we will discuss about the important barriers to communication. Also learn about the steps taken for overcome the barriers to communication.

Important Barriers to Communication:

1. Physical Barriers:

A communication is a two-way process, distance between the sender and the receiver of the message is an important barrier to communication. Noise and environmental factors also block communication.

2. Personal Barriers:


Personal factors like difference in judgement, social values, inferiority complex, bias, attitude, pressure of time, inability to communicate, etc. widen the psychological distance between the communicator and the communicate. Credibility gap, i.e., inconsistency between what one says and what one does, also acts as a barrier to communication.

3. Semantic or Language Barriers:

Semantic is the science of meaning. The same words and symbols carry different meanings to different people. Difficulties in communication arise when the sender and the receiver of the message use words or symbols in different senses.

The meaning intended by the sender may be quite different from the meaning followed by the receiver. People interpret the message in terms of their own behaviour and experience. Sometimes, the language used by the sender may not at all be followed by the receiver.


4. Status Barriers (Superior-Subordinate Relationship):

Status or position in the hierarchy of an organisation is one of the fundamental barriers that obstruct free flow of information.

A superior may give only selective information to his subordinates so as to maintain status differences. Subordinates, usually, tend to convey only those things which the superiors would appreciate. This creates distortion in upward communication. Such selective communication is also known as filtering.

Sometimes, “the superior feels that he cannot fully admit to his subordinates those problems, conditions or results which may affect adversely on his ability and judgement. Doing so would undermine his position as a superior being in the formal organisation.”


This causes distortion in downward communication. A subordinate may also feel reluctant to report his shortcomings or may not seek clarification on instructions which are subject to different interpretations for fear of loss of prestige in the eyes of the superior.

5. Organisational Structure Barriers:

Effective communication largely depends upon sound organisational structure. If the structure is complex involving several layers of management, the breakdown or distortion in communication will arise. It is an established fact that every layer cuts off a bit of information. In the words of W.C. Bennis, “Communication gets distorted particularly as it goes up the hierarchy.”

Moreover, information travelling through formal structure introduces rigidity and causes delay because of long lines of communication. Similarly, lack of instructions for further conveying information to the subordinates and heavy pressure of work at certain levels of authority also act as barriers to effective communication.


6. Barriers Due to Inadequate Attention:

Inadequate attention to the message makes communication less effective and the message is likely to be misunderstood. Inattention may arise because of over business of the communicate or because of the message being contrary to his expectation? and beliefs. The simple failure to read notices, minutes and reports is also a common feature.

Whatever be the reason, communication remains only a one-way process and there is no understanding of the message, if the receiver pays little attention to the message. In the words of Joseph Dooher, “Listening is the most neglected skill of communication.” “half listening is like racing your engine with gears in neutral. You use gasoline but you get nowhere.”

7. Premature Evaluation:


Some people have the tendency to form a judgement before listening to the entire message. This is known as premature evaluation. Premature evaluation distorts understandings and acts as a barrier to effective communication.

8. Emotional Attitude:

Barriers may also arise due to emotional attitude because when emotions are strong, it is difficult to know the frame of mind of other person or group. Emotional attitudes of both, the communicator as well as the communicate; obstruct free flow of transmission and understanding of messages.

9. Resistance to Change:


It is a general tendency of human beings to stick to old and customary patterns of life. They may resist change to maintain status quo. Thus, when new ideas are being communicated to introduce a change, it is likely to be overlooked or even opposed. This resistance to change creates an important obstacle to effective communication.

10. Barriers Due to Lack of Mutual Trust:

Communication means sharing of ideas in common. “When we communicate, we are trying to establish a commonness.”

Thus, one will freely transfer information and understanding with another only when there is mutual trust between the two. When there is a lack of mutual trust between the communicator and the communicate, the message is not followed. Credibility gaps, i.e., inconsistency in saying and doing, also cause lack of mutual trust which acts as a basic obstacle to effective communication.


11. Other Barriers:

There may be many other barriers, such as unclarified assumptions, lack of ability to communicate, mirage of too much knowledge or closed minds, communication overload, shortage of time, etc., which cause distortion or obstruction in the free flow of communication and thus makes it ineffective.

Failure to retain or store information for future use becomes a barrier to communication when the information is needed in future.

Steps taken for Overcoming Barriers to Communication:

1. Clarity and Completeness:

In order to communicate effectively, it is very essential to know the ‘audience’ for whom the message is meant.

The message to be conveyed must be absolutely clear in the mind of the communicator because if you do not understand an idea, you can never express it to someone. The message should be adequate and appropriate to the purpose of communication. The purpose of communication, itself, should be clearly defined.


2. Proper Language:

To avoid semantic barriers, the message should be expressed in simple, brief and clear language. The words or symbols selected for conveying the message must be appropriate to the reference and understanding of the receiver.

3. Sound Organisation Structure:

To make communication effective, the organisational structure must be sound and appropriate to the needs of the organisation. Attempt must be made to shorten the distances to be travelled for conveying information.

4. Orientation of Employees:

The employees should be oriented to understand the objectives, rules, policies, authority relationships and operations of enterprise. It will help to understand each other, minimise conflicts and distortion of messages.


5. Empathetic Listening and Avoid Premature Evaluation:

To communicate effectively, one should be a good listener. Superiors should develop the habit of patient listening and avoid premature evaluation of communication from their subordinates. This will encourage free flow of upward communication.

6. Motivation and Mutual Confidence:

The message to be communicated should be so designed as to motivate the receiver to influence his behaviour to take the desired action. A sense of mutual trust and confidence must be generated to promote free flow of information.

7. Consistent Behaviour:

To avoid credibility gap, management must ensure that their actions and deeds are in accordance with their communication.


8. Use of Grapevine:

Grapevine or the informal channels of communication help to improve managerial decisions and make communication more effective. Thus, formal channels of communication must be supplemented with the use of grapevine.

9. Feedback:

Communication is not complete unless the response or reaction of the receiver of the message is obtained by the communicator. The effectiveness of communication can be judged from the feedback. Therefore, feedback must be encouraged and analysed.

10. Gestures and Tone:

The way you say something is also very important alongwith the message for gestures such as a twinkle of an eye, a smile or a handshake, etc., sometimes convey more meaning than even words spoken or written. Thus, one should have appropriate facial expression, tone, gestures and mood, etc., to make communication effective.