Communication is essential for human survival and success, but loses its effectiveness if blocked in any way. High levels of emotion, misunderstanding, background noise, offensive or over-complicated speech and closed-mindedness are just some of the barriers that can crop up to prevent successful communication. If you're having trouble understanding or being understood, employ a few simple techniques to keep the path to communication clear.
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Get Everyone on the Same Page
Getting everyone on the same page is integral to overcoming communication barriers. In an office setting, hold meetings that explain the company's mission and purpose, as well as how everyone's role contributes to fulfilling that purpose. Consequently, each employee will understand she is working toward the same goal and can communicate with that goal in mind. In relationships and family situations, agree with your relatives that your purpose in communicating with each other is always love, support and unity. When arguments ensue, you'll understand that although your points of view differ, you're coming from the same place.
Language is a common communication barrier. When upset, people can fall toward one of two extremes: either their emotions influence them to resort to cursing and name calling, or they use words you need a college-level dictionary to understand. Remember the goal is communication, not verbal defeat. You can't win with your words alone, only with the compromise they imply. Keep your language simple (and clean) enough for a third-grader's ears; that way you're not alienating or offending anyone.
Be An Active Listener
Use active listening to overcome communication barriers by remaining present while the other person is speaking. This means using supportive body language; don't tap your feet, shake your head, cross your arms, roll your eyes or any other gesture to insinuate you disagree or have better things to do. Nod your head while listening and make direct eye contact. Shut off your inner dialogue so you aren't listening to your own thoughts instead of their words. Listen rather than creating a rebuttal in your mind. When the person is finished speaking, sum up what they've said to eliminate further misunderstanding. If you feel the person you're speaking to isn't listening, politely say, "How did you interpret what I just said? What did it mean to you?"
Communication barriers will persist if you or the person you're speaking to keeps a closed mind. Open up your mind to the possibility that you're wrong, or that a compromise is possible (or even beneficial), or that you're missing something. You'll miss a solution that's staring you in the face if you're stuck on your own point of view.
Keep it Quiet
Background noise can cause communication barriers. If you're shouting to be heard over a television or radio, the person you're speaking to might think you're yelling because you're angry. The same goes for the office if you're raising your voice over co-worker's conversations or the hum of computers. Have discussions in quiet spaces where there's no distraction from what's being said.
To overcome communication barriers, keep your emotions in check. Holding a conversation while you're visibly upset could easily lead to yelling, blaming, name calling and other tactics that undermine resolution. If you need to, take a break and cool off before the discussion to help create a positive outcome.
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