List of barriers to communication

Updated May 10, 2017

When you communicate with someone, you are sending him all types of messages; through words and signals you enable him to understand what you need him to know. If communication fails within a relationship, you can have mistrust and misunderstandings; therefore, it is important to understand some of the possible barriers to successful communication.

Missing non-verbal

When your communication does not incorporate nonverbal signals, there can be a breakdown in the success of the message. According to, the majority of our communication comes from our non-verbal signals, such as facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture and tone of voice. Non-verbal signals convey the message and meaning behind the words. When you do not have non-verbal cues, communication can be blocked. This is the case with many of the ways in which we communicate such as phone calls, e-mails and text messages. All of these avenues of communication are missing vital elements of nonverbal signals. These missing non-verbal cues leave the message incomplete and the receiver having to interject the emotions and meanings that they think are behind the words. When this happens, people increase their chances of misreading information and interjecting the wrong emotions, making for flaws in the communication. Possible inconsistencies could include saying you are interested or listening while you look away or saying you are happy while lacking a smile.


When you display inconsistencies between your non-verbal and verbal communication, you create barriers to your communication. According, your non-verbal communication should say the same thing your verbal communication is saying. When your verbal communication and your non-verbal signs do not match, the people you are speaking with may feel as though you are hiding something. Therefore, inconsistencies between non-verbal signals and verbal communication could cause feelings of distrust. Also, these inconsistencies in communication could lead to a lack of understanding between you and the people you are talking to; thus making this a barrier to communication.


There are certain conditions that can limit your ability to communicate. According to the, aphasia is a condition in which you become unable to express or understand language in both the verbal and written form. Aphasia is usually brought on by a stroke or head injury. Another condition that limits communication can be autism. According to, children who have autism or autism spectrum disorders have difficulty communicating both through non-verbal and verbal means. Autism can be a barrier in communication because it limits both your ability to communicate verbally and your emotional expression or inability to read non-verbal signals.

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About the Author

Alia Butler holds a Master of Social Work from Washington University, St. Louis, concentrating in mental health, and a Master of Arts in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University. Currently, Butler is a freelance writer, penning articles focusing on mental health, healthy living and issues surrounding work-life balance. She is the principle/owner of ALIA Living, LLC, providing residential interior design services, professional organizing and life coaching.