Non-Verbal Barriers to Communication

Written by nicole papa
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Non-Verbal Barriers to Communication
Facial expressions can be used as a nonverbal communication barrier. (oohhhh image by Susanne Güttler from

Lee Hopkins, a leading Australian business motivator, defines nonverbal communication as anything aside from oral words that send a message. The communication process requires a sender and receiver and uses various mediums to deliver the messages. For example, the same message can express itself in different ways via a billboard, a handshake or a facial expression. Nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal communication because people respond to what they see more than what they hear. Identify the barriers to your nonverbal communication to sharpen you communication skills.

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Paralanguage is the way inflections are used when sending a message verbally. Paralanguage creates a nonverbal communication barrier when it is misunderstood or not applied appropriately. It could be a person’s tone of voice, pitch or volume that defines the words to mean one thing or another. For example, someone can say, “get out of here,” and depending on how it was said could either mean the person is upset or could be using the phrase as an expression of awe. If someone is talking, but they are mumbling their words or speaking very softly, you may think they don’t care about what they’re saying or they may be shy and intimidated.


The lack of expression sends a message itself, which can create a communication barrier between the sender and receiver. Silence can be used as a threatening tool to ignore and disregard another person’s need for communication, or it can be used to improve communication. Silence, used in the appropriate way, can help you and the other person think through the messages being sent and how to appropriately respond. A person’s body language coupled with silence will help to define the message being sent.

Body Language

Body language can create a communication barrier. A person with their head down, folded arms or turning their back to you are all examples of body language that creates a wall from communicating. Body language is used to send messages that you don’t care, don’t want to talk or that you’re angry. It is the use of your physical body to send a message. This can include positions, symbols made with your hands or a stance.

Facial Expression

A person’s facial expression can act as a barrier, especially when there is insecurity or fear involved in the conversation. Facial expressions can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. For example, if you’re telling someone something highly sensitive and they don’t make any facial expression, you may perceive that they are not listening, resulting in a barrier where you close off your heart and end the conversation, according to Ohio University.

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