The Seven Barriers to Great Communications

Do you know what the seven key communication barriers are?

Communicating is easy, right? After all, we communicate every day. So why does interacting with people sometimes feel so difficult, complicated or frustrating?

In these situations, you are probably encountering one of the key communication barriers that can hinder both professional and personal relationships. Here are seven of the most common communication barriers that get in the way of good relationships.


Research shows that proximity is important for building cohesive teams, yet workplaces often stifle this with a range of physical communication barriers. These can include desk and office dividers, closed office doors, separate areas for people of different status, and ‘team territories’ that others avoid.

The rise in home working has added further communication barriers and given rise to a wealth of online collaboration tools to help people feel more connected. For example, check out what the new era of hybrid training looks like.


These communication barriers exist in people’s minds based on how they perceive the world around them. They can be caused by the many cognitive biases of the human mind <Link to external article> that prevent us from perceiving people and situations accurately. Individuals may also have their own unique biases based on previous experience and the influence of others.

Ask yourself what perceptions might be holding you or others back from communicating effectively. To encourage others to question their perceptions, try this short anecdote.

While walking, a traveller encountered a resident of the next town. “Excuse me,” said the traveller. “I want to stay in your town tonight. Can you tell me what the people are like?”

“What did you think of the people in the last town you visited?” asked the resident.

“Oh, they were a difficult bunch. Kept to themselves. Took me for a fool. Overcharged me and gave me poor service.”

“Well,” said the resident. “You will probably find them the same here too.”


Emotional communication barriers are the negative feelings we acquire about certain people, places and situations. Whether caused by bad experiences or the influence of others, they evoke emotions such as fear and mistrust that prevent effective interaction.

Sometimes the barrier is simply fear of what others think about us, which may come from being taught to “mind our Ps and Qs” or “never speak until you are spoken to” when we were children.

Although caution is wise, excessive fear of what others think can stunt your development and inhibit your ability to build better relationships.


To be accepted as a member of a group, we often need to adopt patterns of behaviour that the group perceives as a sign of belonging. For example, honesty, openness, diligence, banter or sense of humour.

Cultural communication barriers arise if you don’t understand the group’s required behaviour patterns, which increases the risk of doing something its members frown upon.

Research is the best way to overcome this. With an understanding of the group’s expectations and rituals, you can build fruitful relationships and contribute towards shared objectives.


Language causes communication barriers if you use words that other people are unfamiliar with. As soon as you introduce these words, you begin to exclude others. Bear in mind this includes expressions, buzzwords and jargon.

In business, we must always talk to people ‘in their own language’ if we want to understand them and influence their behaviour.

One of the more chilling memories of the Cold War was hearing Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev telling the US

“We will bury you!”

This was taken to mean a threat of nuclear annihilation, but a more accurate interpretation was simply

“We will overtake you”

by which he meant achieving economic superiority.


Did you know that there are distinct differences between the speech patterns of men and women? The reason lies in the different ways our brains are wired.

When a man speaks, he uses the left side of the brain, but not a specific area of it. When a woman speaks, she uses both sides of the brain in two specific locations. This is why men tend to speak in a linear and compartmentalised way, whereas women speak more freely in a way that mixes logic and emotion.

Most teams comprise men and women, so it helps to bear this in mind to appreciate the contribution of different team members, and minimise the risk of communication barriers.


Interpersonal barriers are patterns of behaviour that prevent you from communicating effectively, or that prevent people from communicating with you.

These communication barriers can be tricky to identify as there may be many drivers. For example, a person may have difficulties at work that causes them to withdraw. They may have issues with self-esteem or a tendency to ‘play games’. Workplace cultures, disorganisation and greater prevalence of distance working can also cause and exacerbate issues.

Look at the patterns of communication that tend to occur when people are together, and try to identify what might be causing issues.


Improving the way you communicate is a broad-brush activity that benefits from looking at many aspects of yourself, others and the situation you are in.

As you communicate, try to change your own thoughts and feelings and see how it improves the interaction. This is often the first step to breaking down communication barriers and building better relationships. Boost your everyday communication skills

This article was originally contributed by Eric Garner.

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