Signs of Ineffective Communication

Updated April 17, 2017

Communication is the process in which a sender conveys a message, instruction or information to a receiver. To be effective, the receiver should be interpreting the same meaning from the communication that the sender intended to express. Unfortunately, the flow of communication does not always work this well. Understanding what the signs of ineffective communication are can help to avoid frustration, misunderstandings and breakdowns in this process.

Lack of Clarity

Many people have experienced a situation where they thought that they had successfully completed a task to expectation only to find that they misunderstood the instructions that they were given. Effective communication requires the sender's instructions to the receiver to be clear, concise and to the point. There should be no cryptic underlying message requiring further interpretation. Ineffective communication is vague while effective communication is precise, so in the above instance rather than just making a vague request for something to be done, details such as how and when it should be done need to be outlined by the sender.

One Way

Another sign of ineffective communication is if either party in the process does more talking than listening or visa versa. Effective communication is a process of two-way interaction between the sender and receiver. Being responsive to the perspective and needs of the other person is an important element in effective communication. Using the same example above, the sender should cross-check with the receiver that his message is clear and being understood while the receiver should be able to ask questions to clarify any elements she feels she might not have fully grasped.

Tone, Nonverbal Cues and Emotion

Effective communicators convey directions and messages in a direct and assertive tone but not in an aggressive or hostile manner. The tone of the sender should be polite, friendly and pleasant. The emotional state of the parties will also impact the effectiveness of the communication between them. For example, if the receiver is angry with the sender, he will interpret the information differently than if he is in a happy mood. Maintaining eye contact as well as positive body language and facial expression are nonverbal elements of effective communication.

Language and Speed

Communication between two parties is often ineffective because the sender is using language that the receiver does not understand. This is a common occurance in business environments where assumptions are made about the receiver's understanding and knowledge of technical jargon, acronyms and other specialist information. Sometimes senders can bombard receivers with too much information, which causes them to switch off and completely miss the message. Another issue may be that the sender is speaking too quickly for the receiver to pick up the new and unfamiliar information being expressed.

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