How to Overcome Barriers to Effective Communication

Updated February 21, 2018

Effective communication is both simple and complicated. On the one hand, effective communication is simply a matter of listening respectfully, in the way we would like others to listen to us. On the other hand, we each have our own agenda, which inhibits our ability to fully listen to someone with conflicting objectives. Overcoming barriers to effective communication involves finding common ground on which to communicate and then learning to express opinions and needs calmly and clearly.

Treat the person you are attempting to communicate with respectfully. If you do not put him on the defensive, he will be better able to hear what you have to say and respond by truly addressing the issues rather than reacting to perceived insults. Speak without making overt or implied accusations and listen carefully to his point of view. The more fully you understand what he has to say, the easier it will be to reconcile your differences.

Find common ground on which to communicate. Despite the fact that issues and antagonism can create barriers to effective communication, there is almost always some point of agreement between two people from which they can start building a bridge. For example, if one neighbour wants to plant a tree while the other objects to the shade that tree will create in his garden, they can begin a dialogue based on their common interest in keeping their neighbourhood attractive.

Identify any other existing barriers to effective communication, such as physical barriers of space or time, or cultural differences that cause one party to speak or act in a way that the other party finds offensive or threatening. Whenever possible, discuss these barriers when you begin your dialogue. If you cannot openly discuss the variables creating barriers to effective communication, keep them in mind nonetheless in order to maintain as much perspective as possible.

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About the Author

Devra Gartenstein is an omnivore who has published several vegan cookbooks. She has owned and run small food businesses for 30 years.