Barriers to Effective Interpersonal Interactions

Updated March 23, 2017

Effective interpersonal interactions are not only enriching but essential. Interpersonal interactions influence everything from the happiness of your family to the closeness of your friends and the success of your job. Unfortunately, effectively communicating your needs, feelings and opinions can be difficult at times. There are a number of different types of barriers that influence one's ability to have and sustain interpersonal interactions. Understanding those barriers is the first step to overcoming them.

Physical Barriers

While physical barriers to effective interactions may seem obvious, their implications should not be ignored. Physical barriers to effective interpersonal interactions can include a lack of personal proximity to the person with whom you trying to communicate and technical barriers, such as a lack of communication devices. Additionally, immediate physical barriers, such as a shut door to a boss's office, may be present. The implications of physical barriers can be far-reaching, even going so far as to create emotional barriers which prevent effective interactions.

Emotional Barriers

Most emotional barriers to effective interpersonal interactions are motivated by fear. Lessons learnt from negative childhood socialisation experiences can cause excessive fear, mistrust and nervousness when attempting interpersonal communication. An example of a learnt emotional barrier is an inability to trust someone with your thoughts, feelings or ideas due to a fear of judgment from other people and the perceived ridicule and ostracization that accompanies that judgment. Physical barriers mentioned above, such as a closed office door, can make interpersonal interactions appear unwelcome, causing both a physical and emotional barrier.

Cultural and Language Barriers

Communication is required because people see and experience the world differently. However, these basic differences can cause a cultural barrier to effective interpersonal interactions. Every culture has its own customs for communication, from how to address someone to spatial differences when speaking face-to-face. These differences become barriers when they prevent communication. For example, if you fear offending a person of a different culture, you may avoid speaking to her due to this fear. Men and women also often have different methods of communication, which can cause frequent misunderstandings. For instance, women tend to soften statements with qualifiers that may diminish the statements' importance to men. Similarly, there may be language barriers between groups of speakers, making conversation difficult.

Other Barriers

Many people experience varying degrees of social anxiety, which can keep them engaging with others on an interpersonal level. Severe social anxiety may cause a withdrawal from relationships with family members, friends and co-workers. This withdrawal can manifest as an avoidance of closeness with others and a focusing on solitary activities, such as games and hobbies. A sensitivity to power dynamics can also cause a barrier to interpersonal communication. Speaking to a superior in an office or social setting can cause anxiety, which prevents effective communication.

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About the Author

Tatyana Ivanov has been a freelance writer since 2008 and has contributed articles to "Venus" and "Columbus Family." She continues to write humor pieces for a number of popular culture blogs. Ivanov holds a Bachelor of Arts in media studies from Hunter College.